Home - is where I want to be / But I guess I'm already there /I come home -
she lifted up her wings /
Guess that this must be the place...
- Talking Heads, "Naive Melody"

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Polenta with a Wild Mushroom Sauce

Wow, have I gotten behind on this blog. The "year of cookbooks" continued into week two with Flavors of Tuscany, a lovely book I got for Christmas about a million years ago.

I had only tried polenta once, at a restaurant in Somerville, and was underwhelmed by the experience. I thought it was time to give it another try. I had intended to make the lemon chicken from this book as well, but I forgot to plan for marinating, so used my old Bistro Chicken standby instead for the entree, and a big romaine salad. The polenta and sauce were a first course.

I'm not going to include the polenta recipe, as the stuff I bought turned out to be instant, and whatever kind you use you can figure out how to cook it. The instant seemed fine to me, but I'm not exactly an expert on the stuff.

1 1/2 oz dried porcini mushrooms
1 lb sweet Italian sausage, preferably fennel-flavored
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
1 medium carrot, peeled and minced
1 stalk celery, minced
1/4 flat-leaf parsley
1 28-oz can plum tomatoes with their liquid, coarsely chopped
1 tsp finely minced fresh rosemary
2 sage leaves, finely minced
salt and pepper to taste
  1. Cover the dried porcini with very warm water in a bowl and set aside to soak for 30 minutes.
  2. While soaking, slice the sausages no more than 1/2 inch thick. In a heavy skillet over medium-high heat, saute the slices in the oil until they lose their pink color. Set aside to drain on paper towels.
  3. Drain the mushrooms in a sieve lined with cheesecloth placed over a bowl to catch the liquid. Rinse the drained mushrooms under running water, then chop them coarsely. Reserve the mushrooms and the soaking liquid.
  4. Add the onion, carrot, and celery to the oil in the skillet and saute gently until soft but not brown. Stir in the tomatoes, rosemary, and sage. Simmer gently, uncovered, until thick, 20-25 minutes, then add the mushroom liquid, the mushrooms, and the sausage (note: since it doesn't tell you how much liquid to use for the mushrooms, this is a judgment call). Continue cooking, uncovered, 15-20 minutes. The sauce should be very thick. Add salt and pepper if necessary. 
We found the polenta sort of "meh." OK, yes, it's a basic grain, it's supposed to be bland. Not sure what all the excitement is about the stuff. The sauce was quite good. We had the leftovers on pasta the following night. The leftover polenta was warmed in some butter and, with the addition of some grated cheese, made for a fine lunch.

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