Eggplant and Mushroom Polenta Bake

7 Jan

Eggplant Mushroom Polenta 2I love the Internet! I found myself with an aging eggplant and some aging mushrooms that had to be used quickly. So I googled “eggplant mushroom recipe” and found more than a dozen possibilities, including this one, originally posted by Amy Wisniewski on chow.com. It was described as an “Italian take on a vegetarian shepherd’s pie.” It’s a little time-consuming to make because there are a lot of steps, but it’s not difficult, and it’s delicious.

You can easily halve the recipe to serve 3 or 4. If you do that, you can use a smaller skillet, but for the first step, you may want to roast the eggplant on a baking sheet because a smaller skillet may not be big enough to hold the eggplant before it’s cooked. I made half the recipe. I roasted the eggplant in a 10-inch skillet before I realized it would be too large, then used an 8-inch skillet for the rest of the process, and it was perfect.

You can use regular cornmeal, like I did. If you don’t have fontina cheese, substitute Swiss, Monterrey jack or cheddar.

Half the recipe made four good sized servings. There are only two of us so we had leftovers, and it was good reheated too.

Eggplant and Mushroom PolentaIngredients:

3 Tbs. olive oil
1½ lb. Japanese eggplant, cut in large dice (I used a medium-sized regular eggplant for half the recipe)
1 lb. white or cremini mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
⅓ cup dry red wine
Small onion, diced fine
1 tsp. dried oregano
¾ tsp. red pepper flakes (if you like extra zing, use a little more red pepper)
Kosher salt
5 medium cloves garlic, minced
½ cup green olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
1 (14-15 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1 cup water
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cups water
2 cups milk
2 tsp. kosher salt
1½ cups polenta or coarsely ground cornmeal
½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 1½ oz.)
1½ cups grated fontina cheese (about 5 oz.) (I used Swiss cheese)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place a rack in the middle. Place a large, well-seasoned cast iron or enameled skillet in the oven while it is heating.

When the oven is hot, drizzle 1 Tbs. of oil into the skillet and let it heat for a few minutes. Add the eggplant and arrange in an even layer. Roast until tender and starting to brown, about 25 to 30 minutes, stirring once.

Remove the skillet from the oven to the cooktop. Transfer the eggplant to a large bowl and set aside.

Add 1 Tbs. oil to the skillet and place over high heat for a minute. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to the bowl with the eggplant.

Add the remaining 1 Tbs. oil to the skillet and heat for a minute. Add the onion, oregano and red pepper flakes and season with salt to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, another minute.

Add the olives, the reserved vegetables (along with any juice in the bowl), the tomatoes and water, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens slightly, about 20 minutes. As the stew cooks, start making the polenta.

Place 3 cups of water and the milk in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat and slowly pour in the polenta or cornmeal while whisking or stirring, until all the polenta is incorporated and there are no lumps.

Cook, stirring frequently, about 15 or 20 minutes, until the polenta pulls out from the sides of the pan and the grains have softened (if it gets too thick before it is soft, add a little hot water, ¼ cup at a time). Stir in the Parmesan cheese.

Heat the oven to broil; keep the rack in the middle.

Pour the polenta over the eggplant and mushroom mixture and spread it into a smooth, even layer. Evenly sprinkle the fontina cheese over the polenta.

Place the skillet in the oven and broil until the cheese is browned and bubbling, about 4 or 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Serves 6 to 8

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