Monday, November 22, 2010

Roasted Squash Polenta w/ Sage-Pistachio Mascarpone & Sautéed Mushrooms

OK - I'm getting one Thanksgiving-esque food related post in before the holiday is upon us. Then I'm back to my regularly scheduled randomness.

I totally winged this recipe in an attempt to recreate a new dish from one of my long-standing regular haunts, Five Points. 
The owner is now the chef and there have been a lot of overhauls, not all of which are stellar.
(Ahem: the "Limit 2" on the $5 Happy Hour Martinis. Boo hiss.)
However, this has been a starter on the menu lately, and I decided to try to make it at home.

The major reason I avoid making polenta at home is that a) it's time consuming, and b) I don't actually want to know just how much butter, cream, and cheese restaurants put in it to make it tasty.

However, I risked it tonight, and knowing full well that it would be both a fattening AND healthy dish.
And I did a pretty decent job recreating it, if I do say so myself.
And I do.

Raw and ready to roast!
I started by carving up an acorn squash, drizzling it with olive oil and salt, and roasting it in a 425º oven for 45 minutes, turning it once halfway through.

Serious color = serious flavah
For the mushrooms I used a combination of dried (reconstituted) porcini mushrooms and fresh baby bellas. I sautéed them in a combination of olive oil and butter until they were really catching color, at which time I added salt and one grated clove of garlic.

Once the garlic was fragrant I added some of the reconstituted-mushroom liquid and a splash of dry sherry and let it cook out a bit.

Bland base...
I used quick-cooking polenta because... well... it only takes 5-8 minutes! I was extra harried in the kitchen since I was experimenting without a recipe and juggling FAR too many things at once.
(Three pans on the stove as well as the oven and I just did not have 35-45 minutes to stand there stirring regular polenta. Why so many pans? Well I had to make something the hubs would eat as well, what with his anti-mushroom feelings. Grumblegrumblegrumble...)

If you were to eat the quick-cooking polenta plain it really is sub-par.  It needs LOTS of help.
Luckily all the additions here make it fabulous. I followed the instructions on the box, made about 1/2 a cup dry to the one acorn squash, heavily salted it, and about a minute before it was done cooking I added a mix of milk and cream.

It was still rather dull, until...

... now super tasty
... you add the roasted squash! I just carved the flesh out of the skin and mixed it all together with a knob of butter. Suddenly it was an interesting flavor and texture. (Check for seasoning again.) But it was missing the big finish:


I used about a tablespoon per serving (hefty but worth it), and had previously mixed 3 TBSP of mascarpone with 2 fresh leaves of sage, finely chopped, as well as a couple shakes (probably only 1/4 tsp) of dried sage, and 1/4 cup of chopped pistachios. 

Serve up the squash-polenta mixture, top with a dollop of the sage-pistachio mascarpone, and then top with the sautéed mushrooms and extra pistachios.
Be sure to stir the mascarpone into the mix while it's hot to create a really decadent mouth-feel and flavor.

Of course, when I served this to the hubs, I omitted the mushrooms and served it as a side dish to some rosemary & pecorino-stuffed pork tenderloin. But that's his own problem.
Well, technically it became my problem as that made for the extra pan on the stove and in the oven while doing other things for the first time.
But it all worked out, and he really liked the dish sans mushrooms. 
So he gets to live.
I mean, hey, 'tis the season and all that.

While I do not suggest trying a new dish if you have company coming for the holidays, I definitely suggest trying this before squash season passes us by, because it is a VERY satisfying dish.
And I am seriously looking forward to leftovers tomorrow!

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

You absolute genius!