Monday, February 24, 2014

Quick Mushroom Sauce over Polenta

This mushroom sauce has layers of flavor and tastes like it took hours to make, but it comes together quickly. I've used premade polenta to also ease and hasten putting together the entire dish. The combination makes this perfect for a weeknight or for those evenings when time is of the essence. Add a mixed green salad and you've got a complete meal.

A quick word about the flavor layers. This recipe calls for dried porcini mushrooms (or any kind of dried mushroom). In addition to the dried mushrooms themselves, use the water from reconstituting them as part of the cooking liquid. When the dried mushrooms are combined with fresh mushrooms, they deepen the mushroom flavor. Add the cooking liquid from reconstituting them and you've added another flavor layer that's hard to beat. A note on the dried mushrooms. For a long time I stayed away from dried mushrooms, as they were usually beyond my budget. However, I recently found some available in bulk at a little Italian grocery in Healdsburg, California. What a deal! If you don't have a little Italian grocery near you, I also saw them available, also at a reasonable price, at Costco. Who knew? They're quickly becoming a regular ingredient in my meals.


1/4 cup dried porcini mushrooms (or use any dried mushroom)
1-1/2 cups water
1 tsp. olive oil
2 cups sliced, fresh mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley (or 1 Tbs. dried)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (or 1 Tbs. dried)
1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 tsp. cornstarch mixed with 1 Tbs. water
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup grated or shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. sea salt
several pinches of finishing salt
Prepared polenta


Cover dried mushrooms with the water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes. Prepare the rest of the  mushroom sauce by heating the olive oil over medium high heat in a nonstick skillet. Add the fresh  mushrooms, onion, and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the onion begins to turn translucent. Add the herbs, the vinegar, white wine and stock. Continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Drain the water from the dried mushrooms into the skillet with the fresh mushrooms. Chop the dried mushrooms, then add them to the skillet. Cook until the stock reduces by at least half. Mix the cornstarch with the water, then add in a slow stream to the skillet. Stir to combine. Cook one more minute until the mixture begins to thicken. Remove from heat, then stir in the yogurt. Taste the sauce, and correct the seasoning with salt, if needed. Slice prepared polenta into 1/2 inch slices. Heat in a non-stick skillet. To serve, place two slices of polenta on each plate. Spoon some of the mushrooms sauce over. Add a small pinch of finishing salt on top, then top each serving with 1 Tbs. of Parmesan cheese.

Serves 4

Stealthy Cooking Tip: You can deepen flavors by layering vegetables. In this case, the layering happens with two types of mushrooms, one type seared over relatively high heat and thereby carmelizing the flavors, the other type boiled, then the deep flavor of the cooking water used as a cooking stock. Salt can also be used in layers. Add some sea salt to the dish, then use a flakier salt with larger crystals as a finishing salt on top of the dish. The sea salt within the dish enhances the overall flavor of the dish. The small pops of flavor on top wake up your tongue. Finishing salts are more expensive than cooking salt, but they will last years, because only a minute amount is used on each serving. Health wise, adding finishing salt shouldn't significantly increase your sodium intake. Finishing salts makes a big impact on your tongue because the crystal size is larger, but when used correctly, the minute amount should actually mean you need less salt overall for your food to taste excellent.

No comments: