We’re Cooking: Creamy Polenta with Fresh Corn and Roasted Wild Mushrooms

The corn has been insanely delicious this year; super sweet and juicy whether served completely raw, barely cooked or fully grilled.  I was roasting lamb chops for a dinner the other evening and wanted to find a way to utilize some of the beautiful, incredibly seasonal and inexpensive corn that has been lining the produce stands at my favorite markets.  We love polenta, but think the texture can be a little bland sometimes. Adding freshly shaved corn from the cob (with some of the sweet corn milk from the just shaved corn) adds nice texture to the otherwise soft side-dish.  Topping it with wine, thyme and sherry roasted wild mushrooms gave incredible richness.  Add a few perfectly roasted lamb chops and a hearty dinner is complete.

We served this with a few bottles of Northstar Merlot from Walla Walla….Merlot is the ideal accompaniment to lamb and Walla Walla, WA has figured out how to make the varietal shine, with Northstar being one of the best in the area.  Filled with big cherry and plum flavors, married with a layer of herbaceous, earthiness and spice, I couldn’t ask for a better pairing with the simply roasted, medium-rare, herb rubbed lamb with these gorgeous mushrooms and polenta.


Creamy Polenta with Fresh Corn and Roasted Wild Mushrooms
For the polenta –
2 cups dry polenta
4 cups chicken stock, veggie stock or water
2 ears of corn, husk and silks removed and washed well
1/2 small white onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 1/2 cups half and half  (fat free or regular) or milk (I wouldn’t use cream in this, it would make it too thick)
Salt and black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

For the mushrooms –
8 ounces Cremini mushrooms, chopped
4 ounces shitake mushrooms, stems removed and discarded, tops chopped
4 ounces oyster mushrooms, broken into large pieces
1 portabella mushroom cap, chopped
8 ounces button mushrooms, chopped
1 cup red wine
1/2 cup sherry
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dried Herbs de Provence
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
Dash red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 white onion, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish

For the mushrooms (they take the longest to cook) – Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Chop all the mushrooms and add to a large baking dish.  Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a saute pan and add the onion, garlic, dried herbs and red pepper flakes.  Cook until soft and add to the mushrooms.  (This step isn’t necessary, you can just add the onion and garlic to the pan with the mushrooms but I found softening the veggies before hand helped with even cooking and a more intense flavor.) Add all of the liquids, herbs and 2 tablespoons olive oil to the mushroom mixture and stir well to combine. Season generously with salt and pepper (at least a teaspoon or so each.) Roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring often to make sure nothing is sticking, until the mushrooms are very soft and nicely cooked through and caramelized.  Remove the pan from the oven. Using a slotted spoon scoop out all the mushrooms into a dish and set aside.  Strain any remaining liquid into a sauce pan using a mesh strainer (to remove all the remaining bits in the liquid.)  Simmer the mushroom juices until reduced by half then keep warm until ready to serve.  Spoon over the mushrooms and polenta when serving.

For the polenta – Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a large Dutch oven and add the onions, garlic and corn with any milk that may have accumulated.  Cook for about 5 minutes until the onions are soft.  Add the stock to the pot and bring to a low boil.  Carefully whisk in the polenta, whisking well to incorporate. (Be careful, the polenta will immediately start to pop and may burn you if your not careful.)  Turn the heat to a low simmer and cook the polenta for another 20 minutes, until soft, stirring often to make sure it doesn’t stick.  Season generously with salt and pepper (about a teaspoon or two of each, to your taste.) If the polenta is too thick you can always add more stock or water. Polenta will soak up any liquid you add, so it is fairly fool proof in that regard.  After about 20 minutes whisk in the half and half or milk.  Adjust any final seasonings, allowing it to cook for about 5 minutes more.  Stir in the tablespoon of butter and the Parmesan and serve in big spoonfuls on the bottom of each dinner plate.  Top with a hearty ladle of the roasted mushrooms and a drizzle of mushroom jus.  Add a few roasted lamb chops if desired.

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