It might just be the perfect Thanksgiving side dish. Easy, flavorful, vegetarian, and versatile, polenta dishes are the perfect creative outlet for the home cook. Saturday afternoon we went on a huge shopping spree for fresh groceries; previous weekends away in San Francisco and Portland meant we had very little food in the house. I had a week of cooking and blogging all planned out.
When my sister called Saturday night to let us know our nephew would be coming sooner rather than later, my first thought was to pack my suitcase and to get ready for a drive to New Jersey. My second thought at 10:00 at night? Make polenta.
I knew that once I got to NJ there would not be much time for blogging or cooking, so I went to work on one of the dishes I had planned for the week. I started with local mushrooms from Siena Farms, cleaned, chopped, and set aside.
I also chopped a whole shallot from Siena Farms. I added the shallot to a tablespoon of Kerrygold butter and started to cook the shallot on low.
After a few minutes, I added the mushroom and a bit more butter.
While the mushrooms and shallot sizzled gently on the side, I added 6 cups of boiling water from my electric tea kettle (a wedding gift and one of the BEST inventions ever!) to my Le Creuset French Oven. We use the electric kettle for everything from making tea to boiling pasta water. It is much quicker than boiling it on the stove.
Making sure the water was at a rolling boil, I added a cup and a quarter cornmeal, a generous shake of sea salt, and a pat of Kerrygold and stirred, stirred, stirred with my whisk. The cornmeal grew in volume very quickly. I lowered the heat and let it bubble away for about 10 minutes.
I forgot to take photos of the rest. By the time the dish was finished, it was after 11:00, and I was both nervous for my sister and exhausted.
As the mushrooms and shallots were cooking, I added about 3/4 cup of Venge Late Harvest Zinfandel.
Note: I did NOT add in any of the Whisker Lickins behind the bottle
This Venge dessert wine added the perfect amount of sweetness to the mushrooms and onions, and once these ingredients were combined, I stirred them into the cornmeal and added another 1/4 cup of the wine, stirring everything until creamy. I was loosely trying to recreate some of the flavors from the Americano mushroom soup from Foodbuzz Festival, and while the polenta was of course different, it definitely had similar flavors.
I only got to eat a few bites before packing the polenta up for my husband for the week, but it was the perfect comfort food. I would eat it by itself for a meal, but I can also see it going great with a pork roast or turkey.
And since everything but the cornmeal was local, I am including this as one of the recipes I am making for Chef Robin White’s Fresh and Local Thanksgiving Challenge. I am working on a few more for Thanksgiving as well as a couple of holiday recipes for a Kitchen Play assignment. I can’t wait to get back to Boston and into my kitchen for some hands-on research!
Are you cooking Thanksgiving dinner or any part of it this year?