Saturday, March 8, 2014

Polenta with Porcini Sauce

I had never tried a true Italian polenta until my recent visit to Italy. When I went in Florence to a restaurant recommended to me by locals, I noticed a polenta dish on the menu. It sounded particularly interesting to me because it was not with the usual tomato sauce, which I am not a big fan of, but it was served with porcini. Without a second of hesitation I ordered polenta and waited anxiously to try it. Where should it be better prepared than in the heart of Tuscany?

It took 15-20 minutes before my dish was ready, which was just enough for me to enjoy a glass of local white wine with Tuscan bread. When polenta arrived, the dish was a generously large and pretty appetizing--lightly fried with an aromatic sauce on top. And it tasted even better.

Today, I decided to repeat the dish at home and use my supply of dried porcini from Poland. But, warned by my Italian friend that polenta is even more labor-intensive than risotto, I decided to take a shortcut and used a ready-made organic polenta (you can get it most Italian food stores or at Trader Joe's). I just made a good sauce from scratch. I was not disappointed at all and added polenta to my family's dinner menu.

Polenta with Porcini Sauce
(Serves four)

1 lb ready-made polenta,
1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms,
1 shallot,
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream,
3 tbsp butter,
2 tbsp flat leaves parsley,
salt and pepper to taste,
freshly grated Parmesan to finish.

1. First wash the porcini in cold water and then soak them in a cup of room-temperature water for about an hour.

2. Cook porcini for about 30 minutes in the water they were soaking. During the cooking about half of the water should evaporate.
3. Preheat oven to 375F.
4. Grease a baking form with one tbsp of butter. Cut polenta into 1/2 inch-thick slices and spread in a baking dish. Put small pieces of butter on top.

5. Bake for about 40 minutes, until polenta becomes slightly gold on top.
6. Melt the rest of the butter in a heavy duty frying pan. Add chopped shallot and fry on a small heat for about 5 minutes. Add porcini with the water and cook together for about 5 minutes.
7. Add heavy whipping cream to the porcini, season with salt and pepper and cook additional 5 minutes or until it becomes thicker.
8. Pour the sauce on top of the baked polenta. Finish with a little bit of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley.

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