Mushroom and Blue Cheese Polenta

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Until today I thought I did not like polenta. My memory of polenta is far from positive. I was served a big bowl of this mushy mixture that reminded me of a breakfast dish. Did I mention it was lunch? I swore I would never eat it again or put my kids through that same awful experience. As the saying goes, never say never. My mom ate polenta prepared in a new way (to her) at a restaurant recently and wanted to recreate the recipe at home. She knew that if we both were going to enjoy the polenta it would have to be sautéed in olive oil to make sure that it was nice and crunchy rather than creamy. (Or as I describe it. Mushy!) To ensure success I asked the advice of my friend Karen, “the polenta queen.” Karen always makes polenta for her husband; he grew up eating it often and he loves it. I needed to know if my polenta expert had any tips or secrets for the perfect polenta. Her recipe was similar to my mom’s, but she shared a technique for achieving the texture we were after. She told me that after cooking the polenta in a pan, we should bake it on a cookie sheet, slice it and then sauté it in olive oil. I took Karen’s advice (thank you Karen!) and I must say that polenta has earned its rightful place in my meal rotation. The girls also tried it and loved it plain. My mom and I enjoyed it as a main dish with a side salad. It was a delicious success!

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To prepare the polenta bring 6 cups of water with a pinch of salt to a rapid boil. Slowly add 2 cups of Bob’s Red Mill Corn Grits Polenta and simmer for 30 minutes until the mixture is nice and thick. At this time you can add in 2 tablespoons of butter if you desire. Pour the polenta into a pie dish (or cookie sheet) and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes. Let the polenta cool slightly. Slice and sauté in a cast iron skillet that has been heating up 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Brown polenta slices on both sides to get a brown crunchy texture. Serve with your favorite sauce or topping. The topping featured in the picture above is 1 onion sautéed with a handful of sliced mushrooms in olive oil. I garnished it with homemade blue cheese dressing and a few shakes of red pepper flakes.

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