If you think that polenta is just a fancy name for cornmeal mush, think again. Enriched with stock, cream, and Parmesan cheese, then topped with a sauté of wild mushrooms, this 21st-century version of an ancient Italian dish is simply fabulous.
I can still remember my first polenta, dating back to 1970. My in-laws had been to Italy and returned home with a copper polenta bowl. They laboriously made an authentic polenta with coarse cornmeal and water, a procedure that took close to an hour and involved constant stirring. The result? Cornmeal mush! I was not impressed.
A decade later, polenta became trendy here in the U.S. and I gave it another try. My recipe is a far cry from the classic dish, but I think it tastes much better. Recently I had my water oven cranked up to 190°F to cook some vegetables, so I thought I’d try making polenta at the same time. I simply added four ingredients to a food bag, squeezed out the air, and then let the water bath work its magic.
It worked like a charm. Cooking polenta sous-vide style means no stirring, no fear of scorching, and no special copper bowl. Here is yet another dish that can be adapted to sous-vide cooking to save you time and effort. Gotta love it!
This creamy polenta is good right out of the bag, but I like the addition of some Parmigiano Reggiano to boost the flavor. If you want a more elegant, decadently rich dish, top the polenta with a medley of fresh wild mushrooms. The polenta can also be cooled and refrigerated for up to 4 days, then reheated over low heat.
Makes 2 cups of polenta
- Preheat water bath to 190°F (88°C).
- Place the polenta, frozen chicken stock, half and half, and butter in a food bag and seal using the water displacement method. Cook 1½ to 2 hours, then remove the bag from the water oven. Open the bag and transfer the polenta mixture to a saucepan. Over low heat, add the Parmesan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cheese is melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Meanwhile, trim the mushrooms and cut them into equal thicknesses. Place a large skillet over medium-high heat and when the pan is hot, add the oil. Add the mushrooms and cook without stirring for 3 to 5 minutes. You want to cook the mushrooms at high heat initially so that they give up their juices and brown nicely. Add a pinch of salt, stir and shake the pan, and continue cooking until the mushrooms are nicely colored. Reduce the heat to medium and add the shallots and garlic. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
- Add the wine and cook until the liquid has evaporated. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the stock. Cook until the stock has evaporated and the mushrooms are cooked. If the mushrooms are not tender at this stage, add more stock or water and continue cooking. The cooking time will vary depending on the variety of mushrooms. When the mushrooms are tender, season with salt and pepper and stir in the tarragon.
- To serve, transfer the hot polenta to a shallow bowl or platter. Top with the mushroom medley and serve immediately.