Polenta: Gratin with Mushrooms and Tomato

So, I’ve been trying to do one meatless day a week. Trying being the operative word. It’s been a rough couple weeks for a handful of reasons and I haven’t taken the time to think about cooking as much as I’d like. Never fear,though. I’ve thought about it now and have planned like three weeks ahead. Yeah, sometimes I’m scary.

A few weeks ago now I had some of my friends over for a dinner party. Two of the three had never had polenta before and I’d never made it so I figured why not? Why not indeed? It’s not that hard to make- just a bit time consuming. And everyone loved this dish. In fact, my friend took home the leftovers to share with her roommates. This recipe is gluten free and vegetarian, but not vegan though it would be easy enough to make so. Listed here are the recipes for Polenta in general, followed by the amazing mushroom/tomato gratin made with said polenta. And when I said leftovers? I meant like a serving was left. We were hungry ladies.

Polenta

Ingredients:

  • 6 -8 c. Water (less for firmer polenta, more for softer)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2c. Coarse corn meal (preferably stone ground or a mixture of coarse and fine)
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. butter

In a heavy pot, bring water and salt to a boil. Whisk corn meal into boiling water, adding in a thin, constant stream, stirring manically to avoid lumps.

When all corn meal has been added, lower heat to medium and continue stirring with a wooden spoon. Constant stirring is necessary to avoid lumps and keep corn meal from sticking. Stir forever (where forever equals about 30 minutes) . Polenta has been known to spurt volcanically, so if you fear for the safety of your hand-skin, wrap a napkin around your stirring hand and keep going.

Polenta is done when it comes away easily from the side of the pot. Stir in butter or cheese, if desired. You can serve soft, or pour onto baking sheets if you wish to shape your firm polenta for other use.

Polenta Gratin with Mushrooms and Tomato

adapted from Deborah Madison, p. 289
  • Firm Polenta
  • 2 1/2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme
  • 1 tsp. dried marjoram or basil
  • 12-16oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 3-5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine  (dry white will also work)
  • 2 c. tomato puree or crushed tomatoes in puree
  • 1c. grated Montery Jack cheese
  • 1/4 c. grated Parmesean
  • salt and pepper to taste

Lightly oil or butter a 9×11 baking dish and have a sheet pan nearby. Preheat oven to 400 F.

Make Firm Polenta (above), pour half the hot polenta into the prepared dish and pour the remainder onto a sheet pan.  Use a spatula to spread it out to roughly the size/shape of your baking dish and let set.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. add onions and herbs and cook until onion is brown, stirring frequently, approx. 10 minutes. Raise heat to high and add mushrooms, garlic and 1/2 tsp. salt. Saute until the mushrooms are beginning to brown, approx 5 min.

Add wine, simmer until completely reduced and add tomato puree. Simmer for 5 more minutes, taste and then turn off heat and season with salt and pepper as desired.

Spread half the mushrooms over the polenta in the baking dish. Cover with half the cheese, then cover with teh second half of polenta. It’s OK if you have to cut the polenta into pieces to make it fit. Cover with remaining mushroom sauce and cheese.

Bake in oven until casserole is hot and bubbling, approx. 25 min. Then, have your mind blown.

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About Wish

A graduate student with two cats and a passion for good food and good conversation, both preferably shared with friends.
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