Pan-Roasted Wild Mushrooms over Grafton Cheddar Polenta with Toasted Pumpkin Seed Oil
Matthew Jennings, La Laiterie at Farmstead, Providence, Rhode Island
Now, that just sounds like New England, doesn't it? This makes a great appetizer, as the flavor combination of the mushrooms, cheddar, and pumpkin seed oil mingle on your palette. For best results, have a generously poured glass of Pinot Noir to wash this down!
3 to 4 cups chicken broth (you can use water for a vegetarian version)
3 cups non-instant polenta (stone ground, if you can find it)
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup grated Grafton or other cheddar cheese
1/4 stick of unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup finely diced Spanish onion
4 cups wild mushrooms, cleaned well and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced shallots
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste
Toasted pumpkin seed oil,* to garnish
Fresh herbs or baby greens to garnish
The Polenta: In a medium-size saucepot, bring 3 cups chicken broth to a rolling boil over high heat. Turn the heat down to medium and pour in the polenta, whisking constantly. Turn the heat down to low and let the mixture simmer. Be careful; it might splatter if it's too hot. Add the milk and continue cooking, until mixture begins to thicken in about 8 minutes.
Add the cheese, butter, and thyme, stirring well. The polenta should have the consistency of porridge. If the mixture is too thick, add some broth to thin it out to desired consistency. If too thin, whisk in more polenta and cook longer. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.
The Mushrooms: In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the dice onion and saute gently. Turn heat to low. When the onion is translucent, add the wild mushrooms, stirring continually. Incorporate the garlic and shallots, and cook gently for several minutes allowing the flavors to merge. (Do not burn the garlic or shallots!) Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.
To Serve: Spoon polenta onto warm plates and top with panroasted mushroom mix. Drizzle pumpkin seed oil over the plate as desired. Garnish with herbs or baby greens for presentation.
* Toasted pumpkin seed oil is sold at specialty food stores and online at www.latourangelle.com