Oven-Baked Polenta with Roasted Mushrooms & Thyme
By Sandro Romano
2 lb mixed mushrooms (we recommend a combination of shiitake, beech, maitake, and chanterelles), cut into 1″ pieces
4 sprigs thyme, plus the leaves of one sprig for garnishing
6 garlic cloves, crushed
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup coarse polenta
4 cups water
1 cup heavy cream
4 oz. Parmigiano cheese, finely grated, plus more for garnishing
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
Flaky sea salt (Maldon or fleur de sel)
Preheat the oven to 325°F, placing one rack in the lower third of the oven and one rack in the upper third of the oven.
Combine mushrooms, thyme, crushed garlic, olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Toss to combine and spread in an even layer on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast them on the upper rack of the oven for 30 minutes while you prepare the polenta, stirring the mushrooms once or twice.
In a Dutch oven or large ovenproof saucepan, bring water and cream to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the butter and a generous pinch of kosher salt and whisk until the butter is melted. While whisking constantly, gradually stir in the polenta. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover the pot, remove from the heat, and place it on the bottom rack of the oven. Bake for 25 minutes (it’s okay if the mushrooms are still roasting on the top rack).
Once you remove the polenta from the oven, turn the up to 425°F, and roast the mushrooms for 5-10 minutes more, until crisp around the edges.
Meanwhile, carefully remove the lid from the polenta and stir it vigorously with a rubber spatula, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan. When the polenta becomes smooth and thick, add the Parmigiano cheese, stirring until melted and well-incorporated.
Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Cover to keep warm while mushrooms finish roasting.
Remove mushrooms from oven, drizzle with the vinegar and then toss to coat them evenly.
Divide the polenta between 4 large, shallow bowls and top with the roasted mushrooms, fresh thyme leaves, flaky sea salt, and, if desired, more Parmigiano cheese.