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Roasted Mushrooms with Polenta: I could live off this meal forever!

April 16, 2011

The dish I made for you today will rock your ever-loving socks off!

It’ll blow your mind!

I’m not saying any of this to toot my own horn, by the way.  I’m saying it because its true.  The first time I ever tried this dish, I was at YaYa’s restaurant and I ordered it off the appetizer menu… I now dream about it on a regular basis.  I go to YaYa’s for the sole purpose of ordering these mushrooms.

Roasted Balsamic Mushrooms over Polenta ~ Pretty/Hungry Blog

I HAD to figure out how to make these mushrooms!

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So naturally, I HAD to go back to YaYa’s over and over again until I had eaten this dish enough to dissect it’s every component.  Today was the day I made it myself, and I’m thrilled to death to be able to share my joy with you!!  If you’re a mushroom-lover like me, just throw up your hands and surrender right now.  If your a non-mushroom-lover (like my husband) then I daresay this dish will convert you.  (It did him!)

Let’s make it!

Gather up a lovely slew of fresh ingredients!

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You’ll need fresh sage.  (I’m growing some in my garden this year… but this isn’t it.  Mine’s only in the seedling stage, so this came from Kroger… my second home.)

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And you’ll need thyme (and time… haha!)  None of that dried stuff here, if you please.  Save it for White Lasagna.  Grab a few chives too.  (Forgot to take a picture of the chives, oops.)

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A leek.  (Ever bought one of these?  YUM.  It’s in the onion family, but very subtle and delicious.)

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And a couple boxes of your favorite varieties of mushrooms.  For today’s purposes, I chose Shitakes and Baby Bellas.  I don’t care what mushrooms you buy, just so long as they don’t come from a can!

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Aside from the fresh stuff you’ll also need butter, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt n’ peppa, whole milk, water, sharp cheddar cheese, and cornmeal.  But we’ll get to all that.

First things first.

Grab a few tablespoons of softened butter (the salted kind, if you please.)  This will require you to set the butter out earlier in the day.  It needs to be totally soft when you’re ready to start cooking.

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Chop up all your fresh, yummy herbs!  Make sure you have about 3-4 tablespoons of sage, 2 tablespoons of thyme, and about 2 teaspoons of chopped chives.  Also, reserve a few of a smaller, prettier sage leaves.  They’re going to be used as a very special garnish on the finished product.  OH!  I can almost taste it already 🙂

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What we are doing here, folks, is making a fabulous little delight known as “compound butter.”  It’s to-die-for.  It’s simple, it’s delicious, it makes a great gift for foodie-friend-types!  All it is… is butter with stuff mixed in it.  It could be butter with cinnamon and honey… or butter mixed with truffle shavings (I die!), or an herb butter like the one we’re making, with sage, thyme, and chives.

Just mash up the butter with a fork and sprinkle in about a teaspoon of each of the herbs.  You can use all of the chives.

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Scoop it up out of the bowl with a little rubber spatula, and plop it onto a little sheet of plastic wrap.

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Then wrap it tightly with the plastic wrap, shaping it as you go, until it forms a long cylinder.

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Perfect!  Now store it in the fridge until we need it.  It will only get more and more delicious with time.

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Next, wipe the mushrooms down to get rid of any dirt.  (Shhhh… don’t tell Barefoot but most of the time I go ahead and rinse them.  You’re not supposed to, but I try to minimize their time underwater so I figure its fine.)

Then slice them into nice thick slices.  I leave the stems on.

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If you have any really tiny, cute little mushrooms like these, leave them whole.  They look really nice in the finished dish.

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Now grab that gorgeous leek and lop off the white end.

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(I bought two, but you’ll only need about half of one for this recipe.)

Slice the leek in half length-wise.

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And place the long stalks into a big bowl of warmish water.  This’ll loosen up all the dirt and sand particles hidden beneath the layers.  The leeks will float and the gunk will sink to the bottom.  You’ll notice I removed a few of the tough, outer leaves.  Go ahead and do that too.

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Now slice up the leeks on a diagonal (because its pretty!)

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You should end up with a nice balance of the white and the green parts.  I’d say you need about a cup or a cup and a half, depending on your preference.  I like leeks, so this is more like TWO cups!

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Now, toss all the mushrooms and leeks together on a sheet pan in a single layer.  Resist the urge to crowd them, we want them to roast and brown nicely.  If they look crowded, do what I did and grab a second sheet pan!  (It’s a good idea to use the kind that have a lip around the edge… I learned that the hard way.)

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Now, grab a bowl  and a whisk and lets make a little marinade!  Pour in some olive oil.  (About 1/3 cup.)

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Next, pour in a scant 1/4 cup of Balsamic Vinegar.

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Whisk it up!

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And sprinkle in the rest of your herbs.

The chopped sage…

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…The chopped thyme…

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…A good pinch of pepper…

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…And two or three generous pinches of salt…

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Whisk it again, and then pour about half of the marinade over the mushrooms and leeks.  Save the other half for later.

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Now use clean hands to toss it all together.  Make sure every piece is nicely coated!

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See?  There’s no shame in dirtying up two sheet pans.  It’s the right thing to do.

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Now, fire up your oven to 400 and pop these sheet pans inside!  Set the timer for about fifteen minutes, and then pull out a little frying pan.  It’s time to make that very special garnish I was telling you about: crispy fried sage leaves.  They are perfection.

Just cover the bottom of the frying pan in a little oil.  This is a mixture of olive and canola.

Heat it up til you see smoke, then turn the heat down to medium and toss in the reserved sage leaves!  Leave them in there for, like, ten seconds max!  You want them to retain a little of their green color.

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Quickly scoop them out and allow them to drain on a paper towel.  We’ll use them in a few minutes.

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Now then, gather up your ingredients for the polenta.

In my opinion, anything served over polenta is awesome.  Rich, saucy mushrooms with sage and compound butter is awesome enough to make you cry.  So let’s make the polenta… it’s easy (and only slightly scary.)

You need a cup of whole milk, a cup of water, 1/2 cup of polenta (aka: cornmeal), 3/4 t. salt, 1/4 t. pepper, 2 tablespoons salted butter, and about 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese.  (But who am I kidding?  I probably added at least double that!  I LOVE cheddar cheese in my polenta.)

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Grate up some of that ambrosia we refer to as sharp white cheddar.  (A little’s good, a lot’s even better!)

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Then combine the water, milk, salt and pepper in a sauce pan over medium high heat.

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When the milk and water are hot and bubbly (but not at a rolling boil) pour in the 1/2 C. of cornmeal and start whisking!  Whisk constantly so no lumps form.  (and turn the heat down to medium.)

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It’ll thicken pretty quickly.  See?  And this is where it sorta gets scary, because these hot-lava-like bubbles start forming and popping and there’s not much you can do except keep whisking and yelp out loud if one of the bubbles pops hot cornmeal onto your arm (or your camera!)

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After a few minutes, you can turn the heat down (or off) and stir in the butter.  Mmmmmm.  This is so worth a few bubble-scalds.

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Then comes the glorious moment in which we add the cheese.  (By the way, if the timer goes off on your mushrooms before you finish the polenta, just turn off the oven and let them sit in there and keep warm for a few minutes.  It won’t hurt em.  If your oven is crazy hot and they already look way dark after only ten minutes, turn the oven off earlier.)

Cheese time!

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When the cheese is incorporated, stick a lid on the polenta and set it aside.

Grab your pans of mushrooms and leeks and scrape the ones on the second pan off onto the same pan as the others.  Then just poooouur the rest of the balsamic herb marinade over them and toss them around in it.

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Oh man, not much longer to wait now!

Generously spoon the polenta out onto a platter.

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(This recipe would feed about four as an appetizer, and about two as a meal.  Or one if your husband is out for Guys Night and you’re settled in by yourself for a Pride & Prejudice marathon.  Sadly, these were not the actual circumstances under which I made this dish… I’m just fantasizing about having it all to myself.  Today, my husband and I split it.)

Next, pile on the roasted mushrooms and leeks…

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I mean, REALLY pile em’ on!

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And NOW… get ready for it…

Grab that compound butter we made earlier, and slice up a few generous lumps and lay them over the mushrooms.

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Let them get all oozey and melty and mind-blowing.

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And then, as a final touch of genius… sprinkle on those crispy sage leaves we made!

(You can crumble them or leave them whole.  I like to leave them whole because they are very pretty and VERY delicious when you get a big piece of one.)

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And of course, I don’t need to tell you what to do next.  It’s rather obvious.  Grab a fork and don’t waste another second.  Eat this immediately!  Don’t bother with silly things like plates… in my opinion this dish is best when placed right smack in the middle of the table and devoured savored one delicious bite at a time.

I highly recommend you make this.  You could go order it at YaYa’s but it’s actually a local specialty only available in Arkansas, and you don’t want to risk going to YaYa’s and finding it isn’t on the menu!

Mushroom-lovers are sure to agree, this one’ll change your life!

Enjoy!

~Carissa

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. Angela M permalink
    April 17, 2011 5:09 am

    This looks absolutely delicious!! I can’t wait to try it!!

    • April 18, 2011 8:23 pm

      You must you must 🙂

    • May 9, 2017 1:43 am

      I live in KS. I am completely perplexed about the usefulness of this information since Jefferson County, KS is dark red the entire time. It's only a population of 18,421 (Jul 2008). The corctnustion wage population is probably less than would work on one highrise in NYC. It seems that making this data by county makes for entirely outrageous swings that throw off the visual perception. In my opinion, the data would be more well served numerically, without the photo, and on a larger scale than counties.

    • May 22, 2017 12:42 am

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  2. April 17, 2011 9:38 pm

    YUM YUM YUMMY! I am in love with mushrooms… must try this recipe!

    • April 18, 2011 8:27 pm

      Kimmy… I didn’t know you were a fellow mushroom lover! You’ll have to watch out with this recipe then because it could pose serious threats to your girlish figure. Mostly because its so good you’ll want to eat enough for like ten!

  3. bella wood permalink
    September 12, 2011 9:06 pm

    I just made a variation of this recipe and I’m enjoying it right now– absolutely delicious! I made a few changes to make it a healthier everyday lunch/dinner recipe. I made the mushrooms as stated, but left off the butter and I just made the polenta with water and added a dash of parmesan and salt and pepper at the end. Oh, I also roasted some sliced eggplant to half of the mushrooms because I had one from the garden that needed to be used. Anyway, despite my changes, it turned out wonderfully. I’m sure it would be much more decadent with the butter. thanks for the recipe!!!

    • September 13, 2011 2:59 am

      Sounds very clean and delicious! I especially like the addition of the eggplant… what a perfect partner to the mushrooms. I’ll have to try this dish with your modifications, maybe that way I can eat it more often. 🙂 Glad you stopped by!

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