When I was in college, there was this great restaurant that served a lot of different dishes that I had never been exposed to before/would have ever thought to try called Fresco. My roommate used to push me to try new things, and I must thank her for one of them in particular, polenta.
Now polenta is really just ground cornmeal with a fancy name! It is super easy to prepare and can be used as a replacement for pasta in a lot of recipes. I love heating up pre-made polenta rounds and topping them with tomato sauce and goat cheese for a quick post-work meal.
This week though I decided to try making it from scratch for the first time, and it really couldn’t be any easier. This recipe calls for mushrooms and Gorgonzola, but next time I might mix it up by substituting in a different type of cheese or veggie.
First, you make the polenta by bringing 4 1/2 cups of water to a boil and slowly pouring in the polenta and whisking constantly.
Add the salt and the butter and reduce heat to a simmer, stirring frequently for about 10-15 minutes.
As the polenta is cooking, get started on the mushrooms in a skillet.
Heat the oil, add the mushrooms, then the shallots and garlic, and then sprinkle with thyme and salt.
Once the polenta is done cooking, add in 1/2 cup of the Gorgonzola and the cream cheese, stir until well mixed. Add in 2/3 of the mushroom mixture and stir. Set aside the rest of the cheese and mushrooms.
The next step is to bake the polenta mixture for a bit, topped with the remaining mushrooms and cheese, so there is a melty crusty topping! You can use either ramekins or a glass baking dish. I chose ramekins.
To prepare, simply divide the polenta mixture between prepared (buttered or oiled) ramekins and then top evenly with the remaining mushrooms and cheese.
Bake in the oven until the cheese has melted, about 15 minutes.
This dish would be great for a dinner party as the presentation is built in! I whipped up some sautéed steak to go with but I also think it would be great with roast chicken. One more note, if you reheat the next day, add a little bit of water, just a few splashes, otherwise the polenta could dry out on you.
1 1/2 cups instant polenta
2 tsps Kosher salt
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup (4 ounces) fat-free cream cheese
1 cup (8 ounces) Gorgonzola, crumbled
Olive oil cooking spray
1 1/2 pounds button or cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 garlic cloves
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 tsps fresh thyme leaves
Heat oven to 350° F
Bring 4 1/2 cups water to a boil
Slowly add polenta, whisking constantly
Add salt and butter
Reduce heat to a simmer, stir frequently for about 10-15 minutes
Meanwhile, spray a skillet with olive oil cooking spray
Add mushrooms and cook for 6 minutes, stirring and spraying with cooking spray as you go so the mushrooms don’t stick
Add shallots and garlic to mushrooms and cook until translucent, about another two minutes
Add in thyme and salt to taste
Once the polenta has cooked for about 15 minutes, stir in 1/2 cup Gorgonzola and cream cheese until well mixed
Add in 2/3 of mushroom mixture and stir
Butter an 8- or 9-inch baking dish or eight 6-ounce ramekins
Place polenta and mushroom mixture in baking dish, or divide among ramekins
Top with remaining mushrooms and Gorgonzola
Place dish or ramekins in the oven and bake until the cheese has melted, about 15 minutes
Yields 6-8 servings