[Eating Rainbow | Yellow | Cornmeal (Polenta)]
I have a crush on Scott Conant’s polenta.
That’s not to say the “Chopped” judge, acclaimed restaurateur and cookbook author isn’t dreamy in his own right.
I definitely dig the red hair. The whole New York thang.
It’s criminally smooth — ravished by cream, butter and parmesan until it relaxes into a sultry pool of yellow temptation. The accompanying mushrooms are no slouch on the couch either. Saturated with a truffled gravy made with rich chicken stock, they fall like ribbons of savory satin when spooned over the polenta.
It’s gorgeous. Soulful. Luxurious in every sense of the word.
But it’s not exactly a heart-healthy dish.
No one in their right mind would even deign suggest that it could ride the TasteSpotting Eating Rainbow. Even if polenta is an excellent source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and vitamin B6, and, according to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, has carotenoids that are easier to digest than other more popular vegetables like spinach, heavy cream does not do a body good.
Unless it’s a lotion being used for chapped, kitchen-weary hands.
So, as much as I love and adore Sir Scott’s polenta, it had to be chopped.
For my vastly divergent take on his signature dish, I simmered the ground yellow cornmeal with milk instead of a mixture of cream and milk, and nixed the butter that’s normally stirred in at the end. When fixing my mix of shiitakes and Baby bellas, I bid good riddance to the heavy chicken stock and excess oil, and said hello to Marsala wine, chicken broth and thyme.
As I sat down at the table with my blind polenta date, I prepared myself for disappointment—for a hurricane of regret to hit for abandoning my first love. It never did. I felt as though I’d known the lightened-up polenta and mushrooms forever. It wasn’t Scott’s, but the dish still made my heart go all aflutter.
In a good, non-seizing, heart-healthy way.
Polenta with Truffled Mushrooms
Inspired by Scott Conant’s version at Scarpetta Restaurant
½ cup polenta
2 cups 2% milk
2 tablespoons fresh Parmesan
¼ teaspoon salt
3 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced (I used a mix of shiitakes and Baby bellas)
1 shallot, minced
1/3 cup dry Marsala wine
¼ cup chicken broth
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed
Salt, pepper to taste
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon truffle oil
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
Heat milk over medium-low heat in a heavy-buttomed saucepan, stirring constantly. When bubbles begin forming around the edges of the pan, add the polenta in a slow stream. Season with salt and then continue stirring over medium-low heat for another 3 minutes to bring the temperature back up. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for another 20 minutes, stirring frequently. If the polenta seems too thick, add a little water until it reaches the desired sultry pool-like consistency. Stir in the parmesan just prior to serving.
Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the olive oil and tilt the pan so it coats the entire surface. Add the shallots and saute until translucent and slightly browned (approximately 3-5 minutes). Reduce heat to medium, then add the mushrooms, salt, pepper and thyme, followed by the marsala wine. Cook together for 1 minute before adding the chicken broth. Simmer together over medium-low heat for 10 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Drizzle with truffle oil and serve immediately. Top with fresh parsley.
Health Benefits of Polenta:
- Polenta is an excellent source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and vitamin B6.
- The carotonoids from milled corn foods like polenta are easy to digest. Carotenoids are vital for immune function, healthy cell grown and night vision.
- A gluten-free complex carbohydrate.