From Too Many Chefs -

January 22, 2008
Creamy Polenta with Mushroom Ragout

It's getting cold out there. So let's make it warm inside. Creamy polenta is a great way to warm yourself up, as are earthy mushroom in a red wine and cream sauce.

Polenta can be served many ways - and I'll be exploring some of those ways in the next few weeks - but serving it as a creamy porridgey goop is one of the most warming ways. I swiped the idea of adding cream cheese from Elise over at Simple Recipes, though I cut back on it a little since the rest of the meal is heavy.

You can make basic polenta with just corn meal and water, but adding some fat does for it what adding a little butter does for oatmeal - makes it less of a chore to eat, and more of a true pleasure.

In the picture above, the mushrooms and polenta are served with a quick sautee of garlickly spinach and zucchini. Add a little lemon to the green veggies to help cut the wonderful warmth and weight of the polenta/mushroom combination.

Creamy Polenta
1 cup corn meal
4 cups boiling water
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup cream cheese
1 teaspoon dried sage
salt and pepper to taste

In a saucepot, boil four cups of water. Add the salt. Once the water is boiling, using a whisk, slowly stir in the cornmeal. Don't dump the cornmeal in all at once or you'll end up with lumps you won't be able to whisk out.

Once all the corn meal is incorporated, witch to a wooden spoon and continue to stir. Stir in the butter. Cook over medium-low heat for at least fifteen minutes, stirring frequently.

Next, stir in the cream cheese. The cheese should melt into the mix. Mix in the sage.

Taste (carefully, this is sticky hot goop) and adjust salt and pepper to taste. If you don't like the look of black pepper flakes, use white pepper instead.

Musroom Ragout
4 cups sliced portobella mushrooms
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste

If you buy whole large mushroom caps (it'll take about six for this recipe), cut them into quarters before slicing about 1/3" thick.

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Toss in the mushrooms, oregano, and a pinch of salt to help draw out the moisture.

Toss the mushrooms frequently to coat with the melted butter. Slowly more moisture will come out of the mushrooms. If they start to burn, reduce the heat and toss more frequently.

After the musrooms start to become tender, add the cream and wine and stir into the mushrooms. Reduce heat and cook over medium-low heat for ten minutes to reduce the liquids and get a nice rich creamy sauce.

Plate a circle of polenta in the middle of a plate, spooning the mushroooms on top.

In the photo the dish is shown with a quick side sautee of spinach and zucchini with garlic.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at January 22, 2008 7:04 AM

About how much food does this turn into when cooked? Things that absorb water always throw when I try to estimate final quantities and scale down to recipes for a single perosn.

Posted by Sweth on January 22, 2008 at 1:12 PM

I didn't measure he yield, but I'd guess about 4-5 cups of polenta. We were both very hungry and had no leftovers.

Posted by barrett on January 22, 2008 at 1:34 PM

Mushrooms and polenta is one of my favorite combinations. I remember when a local restaurant in Boston tried to take theirs off the menu for a while, but customers insisted the restaurant put it back! You can also let the polenta set, and cut it with cookie cutters into interesting shapes, with the ragout on top.

Posted by Lydia on January 22, 2008 at 8:41 PM

Wow, Barrett - gorgeous photo and a delicious sounding recipe! I'm definitely going to have to give it a try. (Though unfortunately, I don't have a lot of hope getting my suspicious males to try it, sigh.)

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Love this recipe. A great blog lots of interesting recipes and chat.

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Posted by Wanda on February 8, 2008 at 6:03 AM

That polenta looks sinful. I'm doing polenta for dinner tonight with an eggplant ragu, and I'll definitely be adding some cream cheese.

Posted by Us vs. Food on February 8, 2008 at 1:36 PM

Another vehicle for cream cheese consumption - Super! And if you think it's cold in MD, this winter in Chicago has been ridiculous!!

Posted by Monica on February 11, 2008 at 5:07 PM

This sounds like the perfect winter meal. I like the cream cheese idea.

Posted by molly on February 12, 2008 at 2:12 PM

When I first saw this recipe, I just knew my 2 year-old son would love it. He loves mushrooms and the creamy polenta seemed very kid friendly too. We had it the other night and it was wonderful. Thanks.

Posted by Christine on February 20, 2008 at 11:44 AM

I'm over here in France sans cream cheese. Could someone please recommend a substitute?

Posted by Laura on March 5, 2008 at 1:56 PM

Laura, you can buy cream cheese at the Real McCoy or Thanksgiving, but it's pretty expensive. I would try substituting St. Moret cheese or Kiri. They are a bit saltier than cream cheese, so taste before salting!

Posted by Meg in Paris on March 5, 2008 at 2:47 PM

Thanks for the advice. I absolutely love this blog!!!

Posted by Laura on March 6, 2008 at 6:42 AM

Hey Barrett, I tried this tonight and it was delicious! The only small departures were a) creme fraiche instead of cream because it's what I had on hand and b) adding a clove of garlic, because I'm sorry but I CANNOT conceive of combining mushrooms and wine and butter without it. ; )

Laura, I used St. Moret Ligne et Plaisir (reduced salt and fat) cheese and it worked very well. In fact, I needed to add a little salt as a result.

Posted by Meg in Paris on March 7, 2008 at 1:48 PM

This looks really great, love the mushrooms.

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Thanks for reminding me that I haven't made polenta in years. Previously I used the old fashioned stir, stir, stir method, but I think it's time to try something new. I've heard that you can also get away with no stirring by using a slow cooker or pressure cooker (8-10 minutes at high pressure!).

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