Wild Mushroom Fricassee Over Polenta

The shiitakes are back!  That’s right, folks.  It’s Fall.  And that means the shiitake mushrooms are making a brief return appearance.  I bought some at the farmers’ market so I wanted to use them as soon as possible.  Two other “wants” for tonight’s dinner:  1)  No leaving the house and  2) Something befitting a chilly Fall evening.  I’m three for three.  A big bowl of salty, creamy, earthy yumminess.  And if you’re looking to cut back on your meat consumption one or two meals a week, this is rich enough to do the trick.  The shiitakes have a nice chewy texture, and if you’re using portobellos they have a firm meatiness about them.

One thing about this recipe.  Get your ingredients together and measured and your chopping done before you start cooking.  This comes together really quickly and you don’t want to be scrambling in the pantry while things burn.  Mise en place they call it in the trade.  I made a couple of substitutions here.  I don’t keep polenta in the house, but like any good Southern girl, I do keep grits around.  Same difference really.  I also didn’t have any portobellos.  I had a package of dried wild mushrooms in the pantry so I reconstituted those to use with the shiitakes.

To reconstitute dried mushrooms put the mushrooms in 2 cups of boiling water. Cover the bowl and let them sit about 10 minutes.  Remove the mushrooms and save the mushroom broth.  Since I only used 1/2 C of the beef stock I added the rest of that to the reserved mushroom liquid along with the stems that I trimmed from the shiitakes.  I boiled it and steeped the stems another 20 minutes. Discarded the solids and froze the stock to use later.  Never waste anything that you can use!  This will be fantastic stock to put in the slow cooker with a beef roast.

There aren’t that many ingredients in this so the quality of each one really matters.  The balsamic vinegar adds the most wonderful sweet tangy flavor to the mushrooms so don’t skimp and don’t substitute.  The butter adds a lovely smoothness so don’t leave that out either.  I used my own chicken stock in the grits, but used a high quality store-bought beef stock in the mushrooms.  (Making beef stock is a long and complex process and I don’t use it enough to get a return on that investment).  The sliced green onions add just a touch of fresh green flavor to the top, but it’s such a good balance to the salty grits that you shouldn’t leave those out either.  In fact a few extras probably wouldn’t hurt.  Just add them to the top of the individual bowls.  That way you can add fresh ones to any leftovers.

Good? Oh yes.
Easy? Absolutely.
Good for company? Definitely.  Serve it with a salad or as a side dish with a meat entrée.
Special shopping? The fresh shiitakes. Only available locally (in Central VA) in Spring and early Fall.

One other note.  Rachel Ray calls this a “fricassee,” but it isn’t exactly.  A fricassee is defined in The Food Lover’s Companion as, “a dish of meat (usually chicken) that has been sautéed in butter before being stewed with vegetables.”  I wasn’t sure what else to call it so I kept the name.  Ms. Ray uses this as a side dish, but I think it’s hearty enough to serve as an entrée.

Wild Mushroom Fricassee Over Grits


3 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
1 cup quick cook grits
1 /4 cup grated Romano or Parmigiano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan
1 tablespoon butter
1 oz dried wild mushrooms, reconstituted in 2 C boiling water, coarsely chopped
24 fresh shiitake mushroom caps, sliced
Coarse salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup beef stock or broth
2 scallions, thinly sliced on an angle


Bring 3 cups chicken broth to a boil in a covered pot. While the broth is coming to a boil, start fricassee. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add oil and butter. When butter melts into oil, add mushrooms and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook, stirring frequently, 10 minutes or until mushrooms are all dark and tender. Add vinegar to the pan and stir to coat. The vinegar will cook away in about 1 minute. Add stock to the pan and scallions. Toss to combine.

Cook grits according to package directions substituting chicken or vegetable stock for the water. Stir in cheese and salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon grits into bowls and top with mushroom mixture.


One Response to “Wild Mushroom Fricassee Over Polenta”

  1. Kristin Says:

    Sounds awesome! And very similar to a dish recently featured in the NYTimes’ Temporary Vegetarian series that I’ve been meaning to try: http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/27/the-temporary-vegetarian-roasted-mushrooms-with-goat-cheese-and-grits/

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