Polenta with Mushrooms and Shallots

November 5, 2007


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.


Cauliflower Gratin

November 4, 2007


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


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.