On Monday, I started the story of last weekend’s dinner party. The chilled soup course was followed by roasted sockeye salmon with nasturtium jalapeño aioli and a salad of beets, beet greens, and carrots with a horseradish-orange vinaigrette. Also served with the salmon was this polenta with sauteed mushrooms. This dish was inspired by one seen in the December 2007 issue of Bon Appetit. As seen in the magazine, it was served in small squares with the mushroom ragout placed on top of each piece of polenta. Since seeing this over a year ago, I kept it in mind for a future party because it could be largely prepared in advance and would be easy to serve in pre-made portions. I made a few changes to the recipe in hopes of making the dish a bit lighter and more spring-like.
The original mushroom ragout included creme fraiche and grated Comte cheese. I opted to make the mushrooms dairy-free and flavor them with green garlic, shallots, and truffle salt instead. I used local blue oyster and shitake mushrooms. One day early, I made the polenta with all milk for the liquid and a half cup of grated parmigiano reggiano stirred in at the end of the cooking time, and I let it set up overnight in the refrigerator. The day of the party, I cut the polenta squares and cooked them in butter and olive oil in a non-stick skillet for a few minutes on each side. Once crispy on top and bottom, they were transferred to paper towels to drain. Then, they were kept warm in the oven until needed. When the salmon was ready to be served, I placed some mushroom mixture on top of each polenta square and sprinkled the truffle salt on top.
Crispy surfaces on the polenta squares gave way to tender middles full of parmigiano reggiano flavor. That richness carried the mushrooms nicely, and the truffle salt was a subtle, additional boost to the topping. I’m sure the creamier version with cheese in the mushroom ragout would also be delicious, but this spring version worked well for our meal.