Polenta Pasticciata


The weather was not too kind with us last week.

Although this may seem like a season-inappropriate dish, we really enjoyed it when temperatures were below average for this time of year.

I decided to add homemade turkey sausage for added lean protein, but feel completely comfortable in making this dish entirely vegetarian. Use the same quantity of dried mushrooms, and double or even triple the quantity of fresh mushrooms. If you can, use a variety of wild and button mushrooms to make this dish even more memorable.

If you are not crazy about porcini mushrooms, then use any other type of dried mushroom, like morels, lobster mushrooms or dried shiitake.

There are a few steps in preparing this, but it is not complicated at all and you can put it together relatively rapidly.

For the polenta:

1 litre chicken or vegetable broth
500 ml (2 cups) polenta
2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons parmesan
salt

Method:

1. Heat the broth in a saucepan over high heat until boiling. Season with salt.

2. Add the polenta slowly, in a steady stream, whisking constantly, making sure there are no lumps.

3. Lower the heat to low, cover, and cook for about 40 minutes, stirring once in a while with a wooden spoon.

4. Off the heat, add the butter and mix until combined, then add the parmesan.

5. Immediately pour on a cookie sheet and spread in an even layer, not too thick. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

For the sausage:

450 g (1 pound) lean ground turkey or chicken
5-6 sage leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
1 clove garlic, finely chopped (or 1 teaspoon garlic purée)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 large pinch hot red pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (less if using fine sea salt)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Method:

1. In a bowl, mix all the ingredients with clean hands and store in the refrigerator for at least one hour for the flavours to combine.

2. In a pan over medium heat, cook the sausage, crumbling it with a spoon, until it is cooked though. Set aside.

Mushrooms:

3 tablespoons olive oil
28 g (1 ounce) porcini mushrooms
450 g (1 pound) fresh mushrooms, sliced
salt and pepper

Method:

1. Soak the porcini mushrooms in 1 cup boiling water for 20-30 minutes.

2. Cook the fresh mushrooms over medium-high heat in the olive oil until well done. Squeeze out the excess moisture from the soaked porcini, chop them finely, and add to the pan.

3. Take 1/2 cup of the porcini soaking water and add to the mushrooms. Stir until all the liquid has evaporated.

4. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Béchamel:

2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups whole milk
pinch nutmeg
salt and pepper

Method:

1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and stir in the flour. Cook, whisking constantly for one minute.

2. Add the milk and whisk vigorously, making sure there are no lumps.

3. Change the whisk for a spoon, and stir constantly until thickened, about 5-7 minutes.

4. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Set aside to cool.

Assembly:

1. Butter the bottom and sides of a lasagna dish to prevent sticking.

2. Cut the polenta into squares and make one layer of polenta on the bottom of the buttered dish.

3. Mix the cooked turkey sausage, the mushrooms and the béchamel sauce in a bowl. Add 1/3 cup grated parmesan. Spread that mixture on the layer of polenta.

4. Top with the remaining polenta, and sprinkle grated parmesan cheese on the polenta.

5. Bake in a 375 F oven for 30 minutes, or until the top starts to brown. Serve immediately.

Polenta pasticciata

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