Polenta with a Leek and Mushroom Ragu

  We’ve really been having a lot of success lately with the vegetarian dishes!  (Can you tell?)  Here’s another fabulous one I found on Serious Eats.  …clearly I’ve gotten over being intimidated!

  This is what we’re making:
  This is actually the second time in the last month we’ve had this, so we made some modifications this time around to make the recipe even easier to prepare.  I was really excited to find a vegetarian recipe that doesn’t require pasta.  You can access the original recipe by clicking the link below the picture, and then I’ll let you in on my tricks here!
  Here’s what you need:
1 tube pre-made polenta
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 leeks (white and light green parts only) chopped thinly
4 cloves garlic, minced
pinch of chili flakes
1.5 lbs mushrooms, quartered
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup dry white wine
6 ounces blue cheese
Good quality, aged balsamic vinegar
  The recipe calls for making the polenta from scratch with corn meal and water and 45 minutes of stirring.  That’s absolutely an option.  It’s what we did the first time.  But what we’re doing this time is taking a tube of “Cornmeal Mush”, smashing it into small pieces and letting it simmer with some water.  There is still some stirring of course, but doing it this way meant the whole meal, including veggie prep took about 45 minutes, instead of just the polenta.  The other option (used for the picture above, which gives less of a blue cheese flavor) is to slice the tube of polenta into disks and fry or bake it.  Both make for a delicious meal, but since the mush version is more complicated, that’s what I’ll walk you through.
  I started by putting the whole tube into the pan with about 1/2 cup of water.  The water was absorbed as I smashed and I slowly added a second 1/2 cup as I went.
  While that was going, I cut up my many, many mushrooms, leeks and garlic.
  We seemed to be out of chili flakes, so I threw in a dash of ground cayenne pepper while I saute’d the leeks and garlic in the olive oil. The substitution wasn’t noticeable in the end product, so I’m considering it successful.
  Once your polenta has smoothed out to a consistency that looks sort of like hotel-breakfast scrambled eggs, you want to add in your butter and  Parmesan cheese.  Don’t worry if there are still a few big lumps, you still have to stir in this cheese and butter and the blue cheese!
  Very similarly to the Vegetable Fettuccine I put up last week, this one has a lot of mushrooms, so you’re going to have to cook them in stages.  I found that putting them in about a third at a time and letting them cook down before adding the next third worked the best for me.
  While your mushrooms cook down, mix your blue cheese into the polenta.
  In our house, whenever a recipe calls for blue cheese, I substitute Gorgonzola.  We really, really like blue cheese, so gorgonzola’s stronger flavor is a good thing in our house.  If, for whatever reason, you don’t like, or want blue cheese in this dish, I think it would still be delicious with the blue cheese omitted and more parm stirred in instead.
  Once your mushrooms are cooked down, spoon some polenta into a bowl.  Top with a generous scoop of mushroom and leek mixture, extra blue cheese and then drizzle with balsamic vinegar.*  Enjoy!
  *The original recipe mentions it, but make sure you get a good, aged balsamic.
  It should be slightly sweet!*
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