Polenta to Die For – a..k.a. “Double Your Lipitor” Polenta  Dennis Nolan


Dennis Nolan brought this to the Wine & Mushroom Fest and it was outstanding! The original recipe comes from At Home with Michael Chiarello, by Michael Chiarello. Dennis’ adaptations included simplifying service by pouring the polenta into an oiled flat pan and topping with the caramelized mushrooms, rather than serving on individual spoons. He used a mixture of wild mushrooms instead of crimini. Better to have a little bit of something really wonderful than a lot of mediocre food, right? This defines comfort food!


Yield: 50 spoons

Time: 45 minutes



3 c heavy cream

2 c chicken stock

Finely ground sea salt, preferably gray salt

1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1 c polenta

1 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Additional 1/4 c chicken stock or heavy cream, warmed, if needed



3 Tbl extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 lb fresh cremini mushrooms, roughly chopped into 1/4 - inch pieces – or sub          wild mushrooms of your choice. Boletes or morels would be good here

Finely ground sea salt, preferably gray salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 Tbl unsalted butter

1 Tbl minced garlic

1/2 ts[ finely chopped fresh thyme

1 Tbl fresh lemon juice

1/2 c dry white wine

1 Tbl finely chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley




Cook the mushrooms: In a skillet, heat the olive oil over high heat. When the oil is hot and just starting to smoke, sprinkle in the mushrooms in a single layer. Don't stir them! Let them sizzle until they have caramelized on the bottom, about 2 minutes. When they are ready, toss them once and season to taste with salt and pepper. Continue to cook over high heat without stirring for about 5 minutes. Add the butter and cook until it begins to brown, then add the garlic. Continue to cook until the garlic begins to brown. Add the thyme and cook for about 10 seconds. Add the lemon juice and cook until the liquid evaporates. Add the wine, and simmer until the mushrooms are glazed with the sauce, about 3 minutes. Add the parsley, stir, and remove the pan from the heat. You should have about 3/4 cup.


Cook the polenta: In a heavy saucepan, combine the cream, stock, 1 tsp salt, and nutmeg and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the polenta gradually, whisking constantly. When the mixture thickens, after about 2 minutes, switch to a wooden spoon and adjust the heat to maintain a bare simmer.


Cook, stirring often, until thick, smooth, and creamy and begins go pull away from the sides of the pan, about 15 minutes. Add the Parmesan cheese and stir until thoroughly combined. Keep the polenta warm over low heat, stirring occasionally. If the polenta gets dry as it sits, stir in the 1/4 c of warmed stock.


Using a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip, pipe about 1 tablespoon of warm polenta onto each spoon (or place it in the spoon using another spoon). Place about 1/2 teaspoon of the mushroom mixture on top of each polenta serving. Serve immediately.


— Makes About 50 Spoons


Cooking Note: Each spoonful gets only a little bit of mushrooms, so they need to pack a punch, which means it's important to caramelize them well. That involves patience. Let the oil get hot in the skillet, then add the mushrooms and leave them alone. They will release their moisture first and it will evaporate. Turn them only when they are deep brown on the bottom. If you stir the mushrooms too early, all the liquid comes out and floods the pan with water, resulting in mushrooms that steam and thus never develop intense flavors.