Indulgent Breakfast Recipe
One of my favorite breakfast foods from childhood is Polenta with feta cheese. This is a very popular dish from Bessarabia (where my grandfather was born) but there it is referred to as Mamaliga. While I still love to make the original version, which is actually quite simple, a couple of years ago after watching a cooking show, "Fish the Dish" that introduced me to "shiitake bacon," I started making this elevated version that has become almost a weekly indulgence of mine. It is Creamy Polenta with freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese and Shiitake "Bacon" (not actually bacon).
Here is the loose recipe:
Medium pot filled half way with water
Fine to medium grain cornmeal
1 teaspoon of salt (I like to use veggie salt)
Olive oil (I like to use organic and first cold pressed)
Small to medium shiitake mushrooms (around 15-20, I prefer organic)
Pecorino Romano cheese (I like to grate my own)
1 tablespoon of grass fed butter
In a medium pot, start boiling some water with a pinch of salt. Just as the water starts to boil slowly sprinkle in fine to medium grain cornmeal (pour in half as much as the water) and lower the heat to medium. I like to use organic, non-gmo, and gluten-free cornmeal (i.e. from a plant that does not process wheat or other gluten products). Keep stirring as you pour in the cornmeal to make sure that the polenta does not clump. I like to add a teaspoon or so of organic first pressed olive oil into the mixture as well as a tablespoon of grass fed butter. Stir periodically and place on low to medium heat. This is a labor of love and not to be rushed, although it is very easy to make, just keep stirring but be careful of the boiling polenta as it tends to splatter somewhat.
At the same time as you start your polenta, preheat your oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit. If you have a convection oven, even better as the fan and bake mode will help evenly distribute the heat more evenly and quickly. Next take the stems off of the shiitake mushrooms (wash the mushrooms first of course) and chop them up into small pieces. The smaller the pieces the faster they will bake. Place the mushrooms on a flat sheet and drizzle some olive oil sporadically and then mix around. You can use a spoon or even mix them up with your clean hands (as a sensory experience). Sprinkle a little salt on them as well (not too much) and then place in the oven. I don't time the cooking of the mushrooms because it depends on the thickness of the mushrooms I picked or how small I chopped them up. I like to check on them and when I see they are crispy but not burnt it's time to take them out.
When your polenta is ready, spoon it into a bowl, sprinkle some baked shiitake "bacon" on top and finish it off with some freshly grated pecorino romano cheese. And voila, an elevated polenta dish that is a delight for the senses. I have a feeling once you try it you will be as addicted to this dish as I am. Enjoy!