“The Best Polenta Dish I Have Ever Had” was quite a few years ago at a really wonderful little restaurant in Murfreesboro, Tennessee called Five Senses. It was a plate of delicious pan seared scallops served over a polenta cake with sauteed brussels sprouts. First let me start by saying that this dish also changed my world with the brussels sprouts, but the overall dish was so amazing and could easily be eaten with just a fork. It had such an amazing balance of flavors………sounds like I need to try to recreate that whole dish, but for now I will talk about the polenta component. I always enjoy a dish at a restuarant that is served with polenta and for a while it was an afterthought in my own dishes at home. Now that most of our usual fresh vegetables have flown south for the winter, I have to get a little more creative with our side dishes. It is odd how pasta has now become more of an afterthought and quinoa, brown rice and polenta have now made it’s way from second string up to the front line of the dinner team formation. I really had no idea how easy it is to make your own polenta with ingredients you likely already have. What I love the most about polenta is how versatile it is. You can serve it immediately creamy, let it firm and serve it as a cake, or after letting it firm, you can fry it or grill it. It also lends itself to many flavor profiles. I have said before, I will take a sauteed mushroom over just about anything most days, so I love to serve it with mushrooms and fresh herbs. Very simliar in composition to a risotto, but with about half the work and all the flavor! I just don’t think I can ever recreate the pah-pah-party in my mouth like the scallop-polenta-brussels sprouts dish that I had at Mitchell’s place, but I have certainly taken up a nice little affinity to my own polenta creations at home.
Here are a few polenta tips I found on Mangia Bene Pasta:
Serving Polenta Hot and Soft * With butter and grated Parmesan cheese melted into it, it can be eaten alone. * Soften a creamy Gorgonzola cheese to room temperature and blend it into a hot, very soft polenta. * Polenta can provide a bed for shrimp or other seafood that has been sautéed with a little garlic and extra virgin olive oil. * Polenta is a wonderful side dish with any stewed, braised or roasted meat or poultry. It is desirable to have enough juices available from the meat to lightly sauce the polenta.
When Polenta is Allowed to Cool * It can be sliced and grilled and served alongside a fried mixture of seafood, meat, or poultry and vegetables. * It can be sliced and baked with a variety of fillings, similar to lasagne * It can be cut into shapes and fried crisp in vegetable oil and served with salads, alongside meats or before dinner with drinks.
- 8 oz baby bella mushrooms
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 9 cups water
- 2 cups cornmeal
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp butter (can use Smart Balance Light Olive Oil Spread)
- Bring 9 cups of water to a boil. Reduce to low and once at a simmer add salt. Add cornmeal in a steady stream and whisk constantly while adding. Cook until mixture thickens and pulls away from sides, stirring often about 15 minutes. Add butter and stir until melted. Top with sauteed mushrooms.
- Melt butter in saute pan over medium heat. Add mushrooms and garlic. Saute 3-4 minutes. Add wine and thyme and cover. Saute until mushrooms are tender about 4-5 more minutes or until desired tenderness. Serve over creamy polenta.