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Polenta with White Cheddar, Chard and Wild Mushrooms

Topped with chard and mushrooms, this is an excellent vegetarian dish. The cheese infuses the polenta with such flavor that it could be eaten on its own, without the vegetable topping. In place of the cheddar, you can try Parmigiano-Reggiano or fontina cheese.

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups (64 fl. oz./2 l) water
  • 3 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 oz./330 g) polenta
  • 2 bunches chard, tough stems removed
  • 1 fresh rosemary sprig, about 6 inches (15 cm) long
  • 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) (2 oz./60 g) unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbs. minced shallots
  • 1 lb. (500 g) assorted wild mushrooms such as chanterelle,
      porcini, morel or lobster mushrooms, cleaned and coarsely cut
      or left whole depending on size
  • 1 cup (4 oz./120 g) shredded or crumbled white cheddar
      cheese
  • 1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Directions:

In a large saucepan over high heat, bring the water and 1 1/2 tsp. of the salt to a boil. Add the polenta in a slow, steady stream, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring often, until the polenta pulls away from the sides of the pan, 40 to 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the chard leaves, folding them to fit, and the rosemary sprig. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the chard ribs are easily pierced with a fork, about 15 minutes. Drain well, then chop coarsely and squeeze dry. Set aside.

In a fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil and melt 1 Tbs. of the butter. Add the shallots and mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms are tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl. Reserve the juices in the pan.

When the polenta is ready, stir in the remaining 3 Tbs. butter, 3/4 cup (3 oz./90 g) of the cheese, and 1 tsp. each of the salt and pepper. Cook until the butter and cheese have melted, 3 to 4 minutes. Set the fry pan with the reserved juices over medium-high heat. Warm the juices, then add the chard and mushrooms and cook, stirring, until hot and well coated with the juices. Season with the remaining 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper.

Spoon the polenta into a large serving bowl, top with the chard and mushrooms, and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup (1 oz./30 g) cheese. Serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Cheese, by Georgeanne Brennan (Weldon Owen, 2010).