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CREAMY OVEN POLENTA WITH MUSHROOMS AND THYME

CREAMY OVEN POLENTA WITH MUSHROOMS AND THYME
Creamy polenta is a breeze to make in the oven, as the cooking is (mostly) hands-off. A simple topping can turn a bowl of plain polenta into a light meal or a delicious first course. Polenta is also a perfect accompaniment to many stews and braises, such as Tuscan Beef and Black Pepper Stew, or serve it in place of pasta with Short Rib Ragu. For a meatless option, try mushrooms braised in BACI Kitchen's Cabernet red wine vinegar. 

INGREDIENTS:

1½ pound mixed mushrooms (such as crimini, shiitake, oyster, and/or maitake), torn into 1" pieces

4 sprigs thyme, plus leaves for serving

6 garlic cloves, smashed

Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

¼ cup BACI Kitchen's organic EVOO

2 Tablespoons butter

1 cup polenta

4 oz. Parmesan, finely grated, plus more for serving

1 Tablespoon BACI Kitchen Cabernet vinegar

 Flaky kosher salt and black pepper

METHOD:

1. Place racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 325°. Combine mushrooms, thyme sprigs, and garlic on a large rimmed baking sheet. Season generously with kosher salt and pepper; drizzle with oil. Toss to coat mushrooms, then spread out in an even layer (make sure not to crowd the mushrooms on the baking sheet; otherwise, they’ll steam instead of getting crispy). Transfer to upper rack in oven and let mushrooms roast while you prepare polenta.

2. Bring 4½ cups water to a simmer in a large ovenproof saucepan over medium-high heat. Add butter and a generous pinch of kosher salt and whisk to melt butter. Gradually add polenta, whisking constantly (gradually incorporating the polenta into the water is key to preventing clumps). Return mixture to a boil, immediately cover pot, and transfer to lower rack in oven. Bake polenta, shaking baking sheet with mushrooms occasionally, until polenta is tender, 25–30 minutes.

3. Remove polenta from oven. Crank up oven temperature as high as it will go (but don’t broil). Continue to cook mushrooms until crisp around the edges, 5–10 minutes longer.

4. Meanwhile, carefully uncover polenta and whisk vigorously, scraping bottom of pan, until polenta is smooth and thick. Gradually add 4-ounces Parmesan, whisking constantly until melted and incorporated; taste and season with more kosher salt and pepper. Cover and keep warm over low heat while mushrooms finish roasting.

5. Remove mushrooms from oven; drizzle with BACI Kitchen's Cabernet vinegar. Toss to coat; let cool slightly.

6. Divide polenta among bowls and top with mushrooms, thyme leaves, sea salt, and more Parmesan.


NOTES: 

1. Don't use fine yellow cornmeal, which cooks up pasty and gluey. For the best flavor and texture, use coarse stoneground cornmeal; steel-ground cornmeal has less flavor. 

2. If you’re feeling indulgent, top with a little heavy cream mixed with a finely grated small garlic clove. 


WINE PAIRING: The general rule of thumb to follow when pairing mushrooms with white wine is to look for silky rich, full-bodied, barrel-fermented California Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. As for reds, almost any variety will do, particularly if the brand or region is known for earthy, terroir-driven flavors. Though it’s hard to pick a red that wouldn’t go well with mushrooms, Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir are the first matches that come to mind.

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