Lunchbreak: Chef Sara Stegner makes creamy polenta

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Chef Sarah Stegner
Prairie Grass Cafe
601 Skokie Blvd.
(847) 205-4433

To purchase a copy of the book:

The Green City Market Cookbook: Great Recipes from Chicago's Award-Winning Farmers Market

Creamy Polenta with Braised Greens and Mushrooms

1 head garlic, unpeeled, separated into cloves
4 cups milk
1 cup fine white cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound fresh oyster and/or shiitake mushrooms, washed, tough stems removed, and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 small white onion, chopped
1 fresh hot pepper, such as serrano or habanero, seeded, minced
2 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
1 bunch Swiss chard, kale, or lamb’s quarters, washed, stems removed, and coarsely chopped
1/2–3/4 cup vegetable or chicken stock or broth, divided
1 (2-ounce) piece firm grating cheese, such as Brunkow Cheese's Little Darling

Preheat the oven to 350F. In a large, dry skillet, roast the garlic cloves over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until they begin to brown and the garlic feels soft when squeezed. Remove from the heat. Peel and finely chop the cloves. Set aside. In a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid over high heat, bring the milk just to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium and slowly pour in the cornmeal, whisking constantly. Whisk in the salt. When the mixture has thickened slightly, remove from the heat, cover the saucepan, and transfer to the oven. Bake for 10 minutes and then whisk. Bake another 10 minutes and whisk again. If the polenta is too thick, stir in additional milk or water. If it is too thin, cover and return to the oven for 5 minutes. After removing the polenta from the oven, stir in the black pepper and keep warm. While the mixture is baking, melt the butter in a large, deep sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and roasted garlic and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, until browned. Add the onion, hot pepper, and thyme and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the chard and 1/2 cup of the broth. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 6 to 8 minutes, until the chard is tender. If the mixture is dry, add the remaining 1/4 cup of the broth. Remove from the heat and season with salt to taste. Spoon the warm polenta into 4 shallow bowls and top with the vegetable mixture. Grate some of the cheese over each bowl before serving.

Recipe courtesy of Tracey Vowell

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