Here is a fun new twist on an American holiday favorite.
- 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
- 1 1/2 cups polenta
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil or extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cups minced onion
- 1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 teaspoons minced or crushed garlic
- 1 cup minced medium bell pepper (red, yellow, or orange)
- 1 medium Anaheim chili, minced
- Black pepper to taste
- 1 cup lightly toasted minced California walnuts
- Touch of butter
- Additional mushrooms
- Splash or two of dry sherry
- Place the dried mushrooms in a medium-sized bowl and pour in 1 cup boiling water. Cover the bowl with a plate and let it stand for at least 30 minutes. (Longer is fine.) When the mushrooms are tender, drain them in a strainer over a bowl, saving the now-delicious water. Squeeze all the water from the mushrooms after they’re drained, then finely chop them; set aside.
- Measure 3 1/2 cups water into a medium-sized saucepan, and add 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Bring to a boil, and sprinkle in the polenta, whisking. Keep whisking; turn the heat down to low. Let it cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon (which will now be easier to use than the whisk) until very thick. This will only take about 10 minutes or less. Pour into a 7x11-inch baking dish or divide the hot mixture between two full-size dinner plates, spreading each “pile” into a circle about 1/2-inch-thick. Allow to cool completely. It will stiffen up as it cools.
- Place a 10-inch heavy skillet over medium heat and wait about 1 minute, then add the oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the onion and herbs, plus another 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and sauté over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until the onion begins to become translucent. Stir in the garlic, cover the pan, and cook over medium-low heat for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the peppers, chili and chopped mushrooms, stirring to blend. Cover the pan again; cook 5 minutes. Add the reserved liquid from the mushrooms and continue to cook until all of the liquid has evaporated and everything is tender, about 5 minutes.
- Use a sharp knife, cut the firmed-up polenta into chunks (about 1 inch, but this is totally imprecise). Heat a separate pan over medium high heat and add two tablespoons oil; add the polenta cubes and cook, turning the cubes occasionally until they are all golden. Add the polenta to the vegetables carefully along with the final 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir gently from the bottom of the pan to distribute everything. Season to taste with black pepper. Serve immediately.