Thursday, November 7, 2013

Polenta Stuffed Mushrooms

Polenta Stuffed Mushrooms

Stuffed Mushrooms at a restaurant always sound like they’re going to be great, and then you order them. What’s the big deal with breadcrumbs! (Sure there’s usually some garlic in there too, but all too often that’s it.) Now, Stuffed Mushrooms at home? That’s a completely different story! When you’re in complete control of what goes in and on your food, you can make some really exciting choices.

Typically Polenta is flavored with minimal additional ingredients, maybe a few herbs and some Pignolia (Pine Nuts) sprinkled on top. When Polenta’s popularity increased, loading it up with all sorts of cheeses and other good things became prevalent too. I like to put bits of mushrooms in my Polenta, but today we’re going to turn that around and put our loaded Polenta in the mushroom.

I love the really earthy flavors of all mushrooms but most are not shaped for stuffing. Of the three varieties that are best for stuffing, two are readily available just about anywhere: the White Button aka Cultivated, Table or Champignon; and the Crimini aka Baby Bella, Brown or Italian. The third, Porcini Mushrooms (Cepe or Bolete), are usually only available dried and are not suitable for stuffing once reconstituted, but if you can get them fresh use them as stuffers for their intense woodsy flavor.

Whichever variety you choose, look for firm flesh and a good sized cap into which you can shove some tasty goodness. We’re looking for good visuals and lots of taste so cute little mushrooms just aren’t going to cut it!

We’re also making a Campari Tomato sauce to serve with our Stuffed Mushrooms for a little added sweet richness.

Polenta Stuffed Mushrooms
Yield: 4 Servings     Preparation Time: 20 Minutes     Cooking Time: 25 Minutes


• 2 Cups Homemade Chicken Stock, or low-sodium store bought
• ½ Cup Medium or Coarse Ground Yellow Corn Meal
• 5 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
• 2 Tablespoons Pine Nuts, toasted and chopped
• 2 Tablespoons Kalamata Olives, chopped
• 12 Mushroom Caps, each about 3” across
• 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
• 2 Tablespoons Asiago Fresco (soft Asiago Cheese), divided into 12 balls
• 6 Campari Tomatoes (½ pound), cut in half
• 2 Shallots, chopped
• ½ Teaspoon Kosher Salt
• 1 Teaspoon Dried Basil
• ¼ Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
• 4 Tablespoons Moscato Wine

Preparation Steps

Step 1. Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Step 2. In a small sauce pan, heat the Stock to boiling. Add the Cornmeal in a thin stream, constantly whisking, until all of the Cornmeal is incorporated and the mixture begins to thicken. Remove from the heat and stir, now using a wooden spoon, until the Polenta sets into a paste.

Step 3. Stir in 1 tablespoon of Butter, the prepared Pine Nuts and Olives. Cover and set aside.

Step 4. Clean the Mushrooms and remove the stems and any gills. Reserve the stems for another use or add to your freezer bag of stock vegetables. (See Tips and Trending) Coat the Mushrooms with Olive Oil and place upside down on a silicone mat lined baking sheet. Put one ball of Asiago in bottom of each Mushroom cap then fill the cap with Polenta and bake for 25 minutes.

Step 5. While the Mushrooms are baking, melt the remaining Butter over medium-low heat in a large sauté pan and add the Shallots. Cook for 2 minutes to sweat then remove the shallots and reserve.

Step 6. Add the Tomatoes, cut side down. Pierce the skin side with the point of a knife. Cook without disturbing them at all for 5 minutes. Turn the Tomatoes over and sprinkle the cut sides with the Kosher Salt, Basil and Pepper Flakes. Cook for 3 minutes and then turn again to release more juices into the pan.

Step 7. Return the sweated Shallots to the pan and stir in the Moscato. Cook for 2 minutes and then use a pair of tongs to remove the loosened skins from the Tomatoes and discard. Stir then cover sauce and remove from heat to keep warm.

To serve, spoon a pool of sauce on the plate and place three Mushrooms on top of the sauce. Drizzle a small amount of sauce on top of the Mushrooms.

Tips and Trending

~ Polenta is not the grain, it’s the name of the dish. There is no difference between cornmeal labeled “Medium or Coarse Ground Cornmeal” and cornmeal labeled “Polenta” except that the stuff labeled Polenta costs more. Also - don’t use fine ground cornmeal to make Polenta, you’ll end up with a floury tasting mess.

~ Keep a zipper storage bag in your freezer with all of the cleaned trimmings from fresh, uncooked vegetables. When it comes time to make your next batch of stock – chicken, beef or vegetable you’ll have lots of things to add.

~ Campari Tomatoes are very low in acid which makes them perfect for a fresh tomato sauce that doesn’t simmer for hours and hours.

~ Moscato wine is a late harvest wine. Traditionally the grapes are picked only after the first frost or freeze so this sweet wine is sometimes called Ice Wine. A more robust and less sweet substitute would be a Madeira.

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