When Jeff Heineman was a sous chef at Cashion’s Eat Place ten years ago, he and then-owner Ann Cashion created an appetizer with sautéed mushrooms over a crispy polenta cake. He took the idea with him when he opened the Bethesda wine bar Grapeseed in 2000, then tweaked the recipe. Heineman’s version, with oven-roasted mushrooms and creamy polenta, is one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes, and it’s never come off the menu.
A reader requested this recipe over the summer, but we waited until the colder weather hit to feature the dish, which Heineman describes as “rich and comforting.” He’ll use whatever mushrooms his purveyors bring him—he prefers shiitakes and creminis—but he says oyster mushrooms, hen of the woods, and even morels (in springtime) work well, too. If you’re not up for making the truffled polenta, you can also ladle the fricassee over rice or mashed potatoes.
Grapeseed’s Wild-Mushroom Fricassee With Truffled Polenta
For the mushrooms:
4 cups assorted wild mushrooms, quartered
6 cloves garlic, cracked with the side of a knife
8 sprigs fresh thyme
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Combine all ingredients in a roasting pan. Cover with aluminum foil and cook for 1 hour. Remove the pan from the oven, allow the mushrooms to cool, and pour off the juices they’ve released (you can reserve it for another use). Discard the garlic and thyme, and set aside the mushrooms.
For the sauce:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 shallots, finely diced
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
½ cup heavy cream
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a sauté pan large enough to hold the mushrooms in a thin layer, heat the oil over medium heat and sauté the shallots. When the shallots are translucent, increase the heat to high and add the reserved mushrooms. When they’re sizzling, deglaze the pan with the sherry vinegar. Cook for about 1 minute to reduce the liquid. Add the heavy cream, and continue cooking until the mixture is reduced and thickened. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Serve over the polenta.
For the truffled polenta:
3½ cups water
3½ cups milk
1 cup polenta
½ cup cream
4 ounces butter
1 tablespoon plus 1½ teaspoons white truffle oil
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
In a heavy-bottomed pot, bring the water and milk to a boil. While whisking, pour polenta into the pot in a constant stream. After the mixture returns to a boil, reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer until done, about 30 minutes. Stir in the cream and butter. Add truffle oil. Stir well and season to taste.
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