Polenta with Oyster Mushrooms Nebbiolo
February 12, 2007
When most hear the word Polenta, they think of large women clad in black kerchiefs stirring a copper pot over a wood fire. I want you, David, to think of their supple, dark-haired daughters in white cotton dresses. It’s still winter, so you may have to turn up the heat or wrap her in a cashmere sweater while you make this dish. It will remind your Bella Belle of home and you’ll rack up big points. If I were you, I would consider changing my name to Carmen. David just doesn’t sound as sexy in an Italian accent.
1 stalk of celery
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 bunch of parsley
1 tsp coarse sea salt or more to taste
10 green peppercorns
1 bay leaf
6 cups of water
Saute the onions in 2 Tbs olive oil until soft. Add the water, turn up the heat to high and add the remainder of the ingredients except the mushroom trimmings. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes. Strain the stock, transfer to a smaller pot, add another bay leaf, the mushroom trimmings and simmer for 20 minutes more.
I used criminis when I made this last, but I generally like to use oysters or hedgehogs. You can also try buttons, trumpets or cinnamon caps.
1/2 pound mushrooms, brushed and trimmed
1 teaspoon chopped sage leaves
1 can of whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes
Note: I like the bionature brand because they taste closest to the tomatoes that Jennifer’s family jarred every August. She’ll notice the difference.
2 cloves of garlic minced
2 medium shallots, minced
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 Tbs olive oil
1 cup Nebbiolo
Salt to taste
Cut the mushrooms into 1/2 in. pieces. This dish should have a rustic feel, so not too small. Drain and dice the tomatoes, reserving the liquid for sangrita on Saturday. Sautee the shallots, garlic and red pepper flakes in olive oil over low heat for 2 minutes. Don’t brown the garlic or it will reek of the slop they serve in Little Italy. Turn up the heat to medium, add the mushrooms and sautee for 3 minutes more. Add the tomatoes, a pinch of salt cook for 5 minutes. Add the wine and simmer on medium until the liquid has reduced to less than half, about 30 minutes. Adjust the seasoning, cover and remove from the heat.
Traditionally, polenta is made in a round bottom copper pot named Paiolo and stirred with a long wooden spoon named Tarello. I’m not suggesting you name your pots and utensils, but it’s good to let her know you know what’s up in Nonna’s kitchen. You can use any heavy bottomed pot, saucepan or dutch oven. It’s also stirred constantly in the Old World. In the New World we need to focus some of our attentions on the dark-haired girl in soft, white cotton.
3 cups stock
1 cup of course ground cornmeal
1 Tbs butter
Pinch of salt to taste
1/2 cup grated Locatelli or Parmiggiano
Bring the stock to a boil in your Paiolo. Turn the heat off and slowly whisk in the cornmeal. Turn the heat on the lowest and cover. Every 5 minutes, remove the lid, stir constantly for one full minute and cover. Continue this for about 40 – 45 minutes until the polenta is thick and creamy. If your Italian Princess is too beautiful for you to run to the stove every few minutes, you can try Anna’s oven method.
Assemble the Dish
Make a circular mound with the polenta into a shallow bowl. Make an indent in the center and spoon in the mushrooms and the wine sauce. garnish with proud, towering sage leaves and serve with a glass of nebbiolo.