Creamy Polenta With Mushrooms

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Who knows who first mixed soy sauce and butter and discovered the pleasures the combination provides. Try the mixture on warm white rice, a steaming pile of greens or an old sneaker – regardless, the taste is a sublime velvet of sweet and salty, along with a kind of pop we call umami, a fifth taste beyond sweet, sour, bitter and salty. Soy butter provides warmth and luxury, elegance without pomp. For this recipe, we’ve adapted a dish that was on the menu at the chef Chris Jaeckle’s All’onda, in Manhattan: a mixture of soy and butter with mushroom stock to pour over polenta and sautéed mushrooms. The result is a dinner of comfort and joy.

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE POLENTA

  • 2 cups minus 3 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 ¾ cups polenta or cornmeal
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan, or to taste

FOR THE MUSHROOMS

  • ½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pats, divided
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, wild or cultivated, sliced thin
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  •  Freshly ground black pepper

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PREPARATION

  1. For the polenta, bring 4 1/2 cups water and the milk to a high simmer in a medium-size heavy saucepan set over medium-high heat. Add salt. Pour the cornmeal slowly into the liquid, stirring with a wire whisk to prevent clumping. Continue stirring as the mixture thickens, 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Turn heat to low. Cook for approximately 40 to 45 minutes, stirring every 5 to 10 minutes. If the polenta becomes quite thick, thin it with 1/2 cup water, stir well and continue cooking. Add up to 1 cup more water as necessary, to keep the polenta soft enough to stir.
  3. Add the butter to pot, and stir well. Add the Parmesan, if using. Taste for seasoning. Set the covered saucepan in a pot of barely simmering water, and keep warm for up to an hour or so.
  4. Meanwhile, put the dried mushrooms in a small bowl, and cover with about 1/2 cup boiling water. Allow to steep for 20 minutes. Remove the mushrooms, and pat dry, then chop roughly. Reserve the mushroom stock.
  5. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a sauté pan set over high heat until it has melted. Add the garlic and cook until it starts to sizzle, about 30 seconds. Do not let the garlic brown.
  6. Add the fresh and reconstituted mushrooms and thyme to the pan, and sauté 3 to 4 minutes, turning until browned. Add about 1/4 cup of the mushroom stock to deglaze the surface, using a wooden spoon to scrape at the browned bits. Allow the stock to reduce by half, then turn the heat to medium-low and add the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter, whisking to combine, followed by the soy sauce, cream and olive oil. Allow mixture to cook until it thickens a little, then remove from heat. Taste for seasoning, adding black pepper, if desired.
  7. Put the polenta in a warmed bowl, then top with mushrooms and the sauce. Serve immediately.

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