Oh dang! Life doesn’t get much better than taking a morning walk to gather the mushrooms of the season, then returning home to a fire-warmed house, a jammin’ record player, and a cozy kitchen to cook up said mushrooms. Especially when the mushroom recipe experimentation is inspired by a honey-glazed version dined upon recently at our local restaurant, the fine dining establishment at Alexander’s Lodge. I took note, and this is what I came up with.
While I experimented with the honey glaze and worked up the polenta, I danced around to Black Keys’ El Camino, the 7th studio album by the band hailing from Akron, Ohio, following hot on the tails of the band’s commercial breakout with Brothers. This two piece fronted by Dan Auerbach (who has done incredible solo releases as well), worked with Danger Mouse as a co-producer on this record; this was the pair’s third collaboration with the famous producer (who in part, broke out famously on the music scene with his release of The Grey Album, combining vocals from Jay-Z’s The Black Album with instrumentals with The Beatles’ White Album. How cool is that?). The Black Keys stay true to their blues-influenced garage rock style on El Camino, and the driving guitars will ensure that your cooking involves a full-on kitchen shake down session. Call that your special ingredient.
- 1 cup dried polenta (I always double the polenta and use for other recipes during the week)
- 2 tbsp oil for frying (I used coconut)
- 3 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp green onions
- 1/4 cup vegetable broth
- 2 tbsp local organic honey (always purchase locally if you don’t have your own bees; most of the “honey” sold as “100% honey” in stores is actually a chemical concoction, often from China)
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1/3 cup Gorgonzola cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 pound light mushrooms (I used Hericium corralloides a.k.a. comb tooth, or possibly Hericium abietis a.k.a bear’s head, harvested the same morning. Don’t fret on the particulars – the Hericium genus of mushrooms is safe to eat, and very easy, on the whole, to identify from other types of mushrooms).
- Pre-heat oven to 350°.
- Boil 3 cups of water with 1/2 tsp. salt. When water comes to a boil, add polenta and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring at least once, then remove from heat.
- Spread polenta into a greased 8″ x 8″ pan. Use a spatula to spread polenta as evenly and smoothly as possible. *I use a 9″ x 13″ and double the polenta recipe, using the leftovers as a side dish for other meals during the week.
- Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool to harden.
- In the meantime, begin working on your mushrooms. Cut mushrooms into long, thin strips. *With chantrelles, this can be done by just gently tearing and pulling the mushrooms with your fingers. This makes a beautiful presentation, and the mushrooms only need to cook for a few minutes.
- Place butter in saucepan on medium heat until melted, then add mushrooms, green onions, and a few tsp. salt. Cook until water has cooked out of mushrooms and evaporated, which will vary between types of mushrooms. *Lower-moisture mushrooms like crimini will take about five minutes, whereas more watery mushrooms like chantrelles, comb tooth mushrooms, or lion’s mane will take closer to ten.
- Add vegetable broth, honey, and balsamic vinegar, and cook down to a glaze (approximately 10 minutes).
- As mushrooms cook, cut baked polenta into serving-sized pieces. I chose to do mine 2″ by 4″, knowing that we’d probably eat more, but this size would be visually appealing. If you are doing this as a side dish for guests, I’d go even narrower – perhaps 1″ or 1.5″ by 4.” Cutting them on the diagonal would also be a visually appealing option.
- Heat coconut oil in frying pan or cast iron pan, and place 4 pieces of polenta in pan to fry once oil starts popping. Fry for 3-4 minutes each side, so the polenta begins to crisp. The color won’t change, but the polenta will be hot and crisp to the touch.
- Plate the polenta, and sprinkle with 2 tbsp. Gorgonzola cheese per polenta slice.
- Scoop approximately 1/4 cup of mushrooms over each polenta slice, and serve as an entre, or as a side.