Dark Days: Creamy Polenta with Mushrooms in Red Wine Cream Sauce

January 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

Thus continues my day of comfort eating.  

I was home from work yesterday, and my activities consisted of:

1. Crocheting (really badly. I’ve reached the end of the ball of yarn and have no idea what to do next.)

2. Cleaning out my room (I have a near full wardrobe of clothes to take to Martha’s Outfitters.  Feeling extreme guilt for even owning that much stuff at one time.  Feels so good to purge my life, though. Freedom from excess awaits.)

3. Trying to keep from throwing away things in the fridge (New realization: Food is necessity. Save food, throw away everything else.)

So in my attempt at #3, I ate leftovers, froze chicken stock, and roasted some slowly deteriorating beets.  This is my first time preparing beets, and I took a little instructional help from my new friend Alice Waters (well, her cookbook anyway).  The reason I’ve never made beets is simple- I hated the taste of them until about 2 months ago.  And then, after years of pleading with my taste buds to understand them the way my eyes did- as gorgeous little jewels that LOOKED so delicious!- they finally listened.  I tried a bite of a beet and goat cheese salad, something I’d tried many times before, and suddenly… I liked it! In my excitement I ordered some from my CSA, and then promptly forgot about them. Until today.  So now I have these roasted beets in the fridge, but all I want to eat is something warm and filling. The craving for a cold beet salad hasn’t quite hit me yet.  

Lucky for my cravings, I found some leftover polenta from Friday’s roast chicken feast, and  suddenly dinner was born. 

Another thing I did yesterday was spend an inordinate amount of time poking around on food blogs. I found a new favorite, Tea & Cookies, by a woman on the west coast.  I came upon an entry she had written called “Polenta and Mushrooms and Love Past”, and I started to salivate just looking at the pictures.  So when I found that leftover polenta in the fridge, and realized I had a portobello mushroom form my CSA, and that the Tallegio looked a lot like my Firefly Merry Goat Round… it was game on. 

Creamy Polenta with Mushrooms, Shallots, and Red Wine Cream Sauce

This is an extremely vague recipe. Basically I just threw everything together in a pan. It’s very simple and very delicious.

Leftover creamy polenta (or make some from the recipe given here)

A soft melty cheese like Merry Goat Round, or Tallegio, or Camembert

1 portobello mushroom (or a few criminis)

1 shallot

Red wine

Whole milk, Half and Half or Cream

Chopped herbs (thyme, rosemary, herbes de provence- whatever sounds good really)



Warm up polenta and put in a bowl. Layer a few slices of cheese on top (and if you are lazy and want it melty right away, throw it in the microwave for 20 seconds like I did.)

Slice shallots and saute with a little oil or butter for 2 minutes.  Add the sliced mushrooms, saute for 30 seconds, then add a good glug of red wine.  Mix with the mushroom and shallot and allow to reduce.  Then add a good glug of milk/cream and mix all together until reduced and creamy. Toss in some salt and herbs, and pour on top of the polenta and cheese. 

Eat on the couch with a spoon and be comforted.

*Traceability: Polenta from Wade’s Mill; mushrooms, shallot, herbs from Star Hollow CSA; Homestead Creamery milk, bought at Whole Foods; cheese from Firefly Farm; red wine is Syrah from Cline Cellars, a sustainable vineyard and winery in California.


Pure Comfort Food- Local Mac n Cheese

January 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

I feel like crap.  My throat hurts and I’ve lost my voice and I went to a play audition and don’t think I did very well because I don’t have a voice and I’m sick and my apartment is cold and… sniff… I need a hug… 😦

In my life, there is only one remedy for this sad situation.  Macaroni and Cheese.

Granted, mine is a local-food-adapted, more grown up version than the one out of the blue box, but it’s nearly as easy and just as comforting.  I had no delusions that this would make me well (it’s no chicken soup of nutrients), but it certainly made me feel better about life for a while. And sometimes, that’s really all you can ask for.

Pure Comfort Macaroni and Cheese (makes 2 servings)

1 tbsp butter (Trickling Springs Creamery)

1 tbsp AP flour (Wade’s Mill)

1 cup whole milk (Homestead Creamery)

1/8 tsp fresh nutmeg (use less if only have ground nutmeg)

1/3 cup favorite/available cheeses (fresh mozzarella from NYC trip, FireFly’s Merry Goat Round)

2 servings pasta, short or long depending on preference (I used whole wheat fettucine from Hudson Valley Farms, from NYC trip)

1/4 cup Pancetta, crispy- optional (Homecured, given to me as a gift)

Small handful of fresh baby spinach- optional (Tuscarora- through Star Hollow CSA)


Put on salted water to boil for pasta.  In a heavy bottomed skillet on medium heat, melt the butter then whisk in the flour to make a roux.  Turn the heat up and add the milk, whisking constantly to avoid lumps.  Continue to stir, and let the sauce bubble and thicken.

 When it sticks to the back of  wooden spoon, add the nutmeg and cheeses.  Stir with wooden spoon until all is incorporated. Taste test and add salt and pepper as needed. 

When pasta is done boiling, pull it from the water with tongs and drop into pan with sauce. Fold pasta into sauce to coat. If using, add spinach at this time and fold in to wilt. Add (precooked) pancetta or bacon.  If sauce is too thick, add a little pasta water and fold in.  

Put into bowls immediately and sprinkle with a little more cheese and pepper.  Eat and be comforted.  

*This dish sadly does not keep very well, so if not sharing you should probably eat it all in one sitting. I’m just saying… hate to let food go to waste…

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