Polenta Napoleons with Wild Mushrooms & Truffles

by Chef Mark Tafoya

Earthy and homey flavors are the signature of this dish, which is perfect for cold winter nights.

Serves 4

Ingredients

For the polenta:
2 cups polenta (coarse ground yellow corn meal)
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth or water
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese (optional)

For the wild mushroom bruschetta:
1 oz. dried wild mushrooms (cèpes, porcini, chanterelle, or a mix) (See preparation below)
8 oz. fresh mushrooms (button or cremini), chopped into small pieces
4 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 oz. grated truffle

Reduced balsamic vinegar syrup (optional)

Preparation

Soak the dried mushrooms in enough hot water to cover them.  Set aside for about 30 minutes.

To prepare the polenta:
Bring the chicken broth or water to a boil in a heavy bottomed saucepan.  Add the salt, reduce the heat to a simmer, and slowly add the polenta in a steady stream (a pioggia, or “in a rain” in Italian) while whisking.  Continue stirring with a whisk until all the polenta has been added.

Continue to stir with a wooden spoon over low heat.  Continual stirring is necessary to keep the polenta from sticking and forming lumps.  Continue to stir for approximately 30 minutes.  The polenta will be finished when it comes away from the sides of the pot.  Stir in the butter and cheese, if using.

When the polenta is finished, turn it out onto a sheet pan lightly sprinkled with water or cooking spray.  Spread it out to an even ¼ inch thickness, and leave to firm up.  Once the polenta has cooled and firmed up, cut into circles using a cookie cutter or a ring mold.  You will need 3 circles for each serving.  You can prepare the polenta the day before you plan to serve the dish.

To prepare the wild mushroom bruschetta:
Drain the soaked mushrooms, reserving some of the soaking liquid.  Chop the soaked mushrooms and add to the fresh mushrooms.

Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat, and add butter or olive oil.  Add garlic, and gently fry for 20-30 seconds.  Do not allow to burn.  Add parsley and continue to fry for another 30 seconds.  Add mushroom mixture and continue to cook until the liquid released from the mushrooms has reduced by half.  Add a little of the soaking liquid and continue to reduce until most of the liquid has evaporated.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

[Chef’s Note:  Truffles can be a prohibitive expense for some.  If you can’t get fresh truffles, you may stir a little high-quality truffle oil into the bruschetta once it’s off the heat.  Be sure to buy real truffle oil.  Many of the commercially available “truffle oils” are made with an artificial chemical extract, and are not infused with any real truffles at all.]

Service

Spread a small amount of butter or oil on the polenta circles, and brown under the broiler for a few minutes (or if preferred, gently pan fry them).  Lay one polenta circle on the presentation plate, then spoon some of the mushroom mixture over it.  Follow with another polenta circle, and more of the mushroom mixture.  Top with the third polenta circle, and shave a little fresh truffle over the top.  You may also use grated truffle packed in oil.  If desired, drizzle a little reduced balsamic vinegar syrup on the plate.

Recipe and photo by Mark Tafoya

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