Polenta with Mushrooms and Shallots

November 5, 2007

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Use whatever mushrooms you find in the markets for this great cold-weather supper. The cheese could be any kind that’s rich and nutty, but fresh thyme makes all the difference. SAM & HARRY

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 pound shallots, thinly sliced
1/2 pound forest mushrooms, brushed and thinly sliced
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 cup instant polenta
3 cups water, plus additional for thinning
2 tablespoon grated Gruyere cheese, divided
2 tablespoons crème fraîche, plus additional for garnish
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
Chopped parsley

In a large chef’s pan over low heat, sweat the shallots in 1 tablespoon oil, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Raise the heat to medium-high, add the mushrooms, thyme, and bay leaf and sauté until the mushroom is reduced, about 10 minutes. Add the sherry and reduce, about 2 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and thyme.

In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring to a boil 3 cups lightly salted water. Remove from the heat and slowly whisk in the polenta. Return the pan to medium-low heat and cook until creamy, stirring frequently and adding cold water as necessary, about 3 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon of Gruyère and the crème fraîche. Season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with the mushroom mixture. Garnish with additional Gruyere, crème fraîche, and parsley.
Makes two servings.

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Cauliflower Gratin

November 4, 2007

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Paris: Day 2
The béchamel for this lovely gratin is made with butter and olive oil—very Mediterranean. SAM & HARRY

1 medium cauliflower (2 pounds)
Juice of 1 lemon (3 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cold milk
2 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon unseasoned breadcrumbs, divided
Freshly ground nutmeg, sea salt, and white pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a shallow, 1-quart casserole and set aside.

Trim the cauliflower and separate into florets. Place in the basket of a steamer pan over 1 inch of boiling water, sprinkle with lemon juice, cover, and steam for 10 to 12 minutes or until al dente. Set aside.

In a small sauté pan over medium-low heat, melt the butter, whisking until lightly browned. Add 3 tablespoons of oil and whisk until hot. Add the flour all at once and whisk until slightly browned, about 1 minute. Add the milk all at once and whisk until the béchamel is smooth and slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.

In a mixing bowl, combine the cauliflower, béchamel, cheese, and 1/4 cup breadcrumbs and season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Turn into the prepared casserole, top with the remaining 1 tablespoon breadcrumbs and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and bake for 30 minutes or until browned and bubbly.
Makes 2 main or 4 side servings.


Couscous Pasta Salad

November 3, 2007

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Paris: Day 1
Quick … rich … and wonderful after a long airplane flight. We loved it! SAM AND HARRY

PS We bought a jar of good quality pesto at an Italian shop on the rue Montorgueil. It was great!

1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup uncooked, fine couscous
3 tablespoons Pesto
4 ounces roquette or arugula
4 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 large, marinated artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
1/2 cup steamed broccoli florets
3 to 4 tablespoons Mustard Vinaigrette

In a small saucepan, combine the water, salt, oil, and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Place the couscous in a small mixing bowl, pour the boiling water over it, cover, and let sit for 5 or 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and add the Pesto, mixing gently but thoroughly. Add the roquette, tomatoes, artichokes, and broccoli and toss the with vinaigrette.
Makes 2 servings.