Hey, so quick question: Did Easter sneak up on anyone else this year? One minute your making heart-shaped everything, the next you’re trying to justify that last handful (!) of Mini Eggs. But then again, how often does Easter happen on the first weekend of April? I was so clueless about Easter’s early appearance that I accidentally booked a vacation to Mexico during it. Yes, I’m writing this from Tulum. Don’t worry, I haven’t locked myself in a hotel room. I am indeed outside taking full advantage of the vitamin D. But I had to pause to share these Braised Mushrooms with Mozzarella Polenta with you because you probably have a holiday dinner to plan. I don’t, so I have excess menu-planning energy.
The thing I love about these Braised Mushrooms with Mozzarella Polenta is how versatile they are. I designed them to be a main for any vegetarians you might be entertaining. But I think they would do well as a side dish for meat-eaters as well. And if by some miracle, you wind up being the only omnivore at a vegetarian Thanksgiving where this dish is being served, I can promise you’ll be satisfied. Let’s see tofurkey do that. Oh, and did I mention this dish is gluten-free?!
The long and short of it is these Braised mushrooms with Mozzarella Polenta are for everyone…except vegans and the lactose-intolerant. But hey, these mushrooms can be served to a lot of people. I really can’t celebrate them enough. It’s really important to have dishes like this one at the ready.
I don’t know about you, but my favorite way to socialize is to have dear friends and family over for a good meal. I’m sure I’m not alone in that. I’m also sure that many of us have a wide variety of friends, some of whom have dietary restrictions. These restrictions are, of course, not a consideration when you’re befriending someone but they can be when you’re extending a dinner invitation. Why? Well, I’ll tell you my theory.
I think a lot of omnivores balk at the idea of asking a vegan or a vegetarian around for dinner because they lack confidence. No, I’m not talking about social confidence, I’m talking about culinary confidence. People don’t often make vegetarian or vegan dishes with any frequency unless they’re vegetarian or vegan. And when you don’t do something all that often, you tend to think you’re rubbish at it. But the truth of the matter is, you’re not.
Vegan and vegetarian cooking is still cooking, it’s about finding the right balance of fat, salt, acid and sweet. You know this. You do. So invite that nice vegan landscaper you met last week round for dinner…assuming you met a vegan landscaper last week. And if you did, I think I might be psychic.
I’m going to make this really simple. Imagine these mushrooms are short ribs. What would you braise short ribs with? Red wine, probably. So, braise the mushrooms in red wine and your half-way to vegetarian happiness. Vegetarian cooking doesn’t have to be disappointing or complicated, particularly if you approach it with your usual deft hand.
Now, let’s talk about this ridiculous polenta. This baby is a recipe for the ages. From this day forward I will be making it on the regular. I have two sources of inspiration for this Mozzarella Polenta and surprisingly they’re both French. The first is an amazing mozzarella risotto I had in Paris and the second is Aligot. You may have seen this dish in action on various social media platforms. Aligot is an extremely cheesy potato dish that falls in stringy, gooey ribbons. It kind of looks like fondue thanks to its copious amounts of cheese and ultra-smooth mashed potatoes. I’ve never had this dish in person but I have been known to obsessively watch videos of it. I so desperately want to eat it. 🙁
Aligot and the mozzarella risotto I had in France have two things in common: Mind-blowing flavor and a world-class cheese pull. I wanted that for my polenta and boy, did I get it. And you know what? It wasn’t that hard. Honestly, you want this Mozzarella Polenta in your cooking arsenal. If you take nothing else from this post, at least peep the recipe for the Mozzarella Polenta.
So, that’s about all I got to say about these Braised Mushrooms with Mozzarella Polenta. They’re sure to make a worthy, delicious addition to your Easter table. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I hear the beach calling my name.
Braised Mushrooms with Mozzarella Polenta
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 shallots halved and thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 450 g 16oz cremini mushrooms, halved
- 450 g 16oz shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and halved
- 225 g 8oz white button mushrooms
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 10-12 sprigs fresh thyme
- 5 cups water
- 1 cup polenta
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 1/2 cup mozzarella shredded
- 1/2 cup parmesan shredded
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
For the mushrooms
- Heat butter and olive oil over medium heat in a deep, cast iron skillet. Add the shallots and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes more.
- Working in batches, add the mushrooms to the pan and sauté until thoroughly browned. Repeat until all of the mushrooms are amber in color but not cooked through.
- Cram all of the mushrooms into the skillet, sprinkle with salt and add the wine. Using butcher's twine, gather the sprigs of thyme together to form a bundle. Add the thyme to the pot. Bring the wine to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and let simmer for 30 minutes.
- Remove the cover and increase the heat to medium. Cook until the liquid in the pot is reduced by half, about five minutes.
- Remove the pot from the heat, cover and set aside until ready to serve.
For the Polenta
- Whisk the water, polenta, oil, salt and bay leaves together in a large saucepan. Place the pan over medium-high heat. While whisking constantly, cook until the mixture becomes homogeneous and thickens, about ten minutes.
- Switch to a wooden spoon and reduce the heat to medium-low. There should be just a few bubbles breaking the surface of the polenta. Continue to cook the polenta, stirring frequently, until glossy and smooth. The polenta should readily pull away from the sides of the pot when stirred if ready. This should take about 10-15 minutes.
- Remove them polenta from the heat and stir in the mozzarella, butter and parmesan.
- Transfer the polenta to a platter and top with the braised mushroom. Garnish with micro greens and parmesan curls, if desired.