november 29, 2018
Here’s one for Meatless Monday. Satisfying in a creamy, hearty, chewy way, this goat cheese polenta with wild mushrooms will feed four as a starter course and two as an entree. I’ve been making polenta with parmesan cheese for eons, and for some reason never thought to try goat cheese. What was I thinking? Even those who have not joined the goat cheese fan club will appreciate the slightly tangy and very creamy addition of chèvre to this dish.
There are many ways to serve polenta : premade and formed into a tubular shaper for frying and grilling, as a boxed mix for a creamy version and my favorite way, which is to enjoy the homemade goodness of creamy polenta made by the simple stovetop method. By simple, I mean that constant stirring is not necessary. You will whisk plain yellow cornmeal into a barely simmering milk and water mixture, turn the heat to low and whisk frequently initially to prevent sticking, then whisk occasionally over the twenty minute course of cooking until creamy and smooth. That’s it. Goat cheese is added at the end. Couldn’t be more simple and you will taste the difference if what you have been eating is boxed polenta mix. As with most things culinary, fewer whole ingredients makes for less processed foods in your meal plan. And that’s always a Good Thing, to paraphrase Martha.
The mushroom topping is similar to the Herbed Shiitake Mushrooms published earlier on this blog —the addition today of feathery oyster mushrooms makes for a more “meaty” meal. Another toothsome topping would be Garlic Roasted Peppers from a few weeks back. For the carnivores, the goat cheese polenta base makes a nice bed for Lemon Rosemary Roasted Chicken.
Italian parsley is an integral member of this team. We underestimate its value because for so many years parsley has functioned as a not-to-be-eaten garnish, languishing in a wilted state at the plate’s rim. Not so today; its vegetal astringency is the perfect foil for the creamy polenta and the umami of mushrooms. Since our first Southern frosts, all herbs in my garden have ceased production, save for my beautiful Italian parsley which still stands green and tall in terra cotta pots. When cooking, I always steal a few leaves and stalks to savor while I chop and stir.
Speaking of cooking, this season of crisp mornings and chilly evenings is my favorite for hunkering down in the kitchen all day. Braising, simmering and roasting are the mainstays of real cooking, resulting in culinary triumphs which warm the heart and feed the soul. Happy holiday cooking!
Goat Cheese Polenta with Mushrooms
recipe by Michele Humlan, The Good Eats Company
makes four first courses or two entrees
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 cups whole milk
2 cups water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces crumbled goat cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
fine sea salt as needed to adjust seasoning
one large garlic clove, minced fine
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 pound mixed mushrooms, sliced (I used shiitakes) or pulled (oyster)
½ cup chopped Italian parsley
fine sea salt
finely ground white pepper
extra Italian parsley for edible garnish
- Have all items prepped and ready for cooking.
- If you make the mushrooms ahead of time, add the chopped parsley after a quick reheating so it will not wilt.
- For the polenta, combine milk, water and kosher salt in a heavy two quart saucepan over medium high heat.
- Just as mixture begins to simmer, whisk in cornmeal gradually, lowering heat and whisking vigorously initially to avoid lumps, then whisk frequently in the next several minutes so polenta does not stick.
- Whisk occasionally over the next twenty minutes, maintaining a gentle bubbling over low heat; add butter and goat cheese, whisking well until combined.
- Adjust seasoning with salt if needed and serve immediately with mushroom topping.
- If you have not made the mushrooms ahead of time, prepare while polenta cooks.
- In a heavy saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat until it begins to shimmer; add mushrooms, and stir frequently but gently for 3-4 minutes or until they are just wilted.
- Add garlic, give a few stirs and then add chopped parsley.
- Stir once or twice and serve over hot goat cheese polenta.
- Garnish with Italian parsley if you promise to eat this beautiful herb garnish!