Polenta with Mushrooms & Onions

Also known as divine polenta. Also known as holy crap, could this really, possibly be so good polenta. This is one of those meals that seems like magic — a potion concocted in the stainless steel cauldron perched over the flame of my stove. And like most good food potions, it begins with a magical combination: butter and onions.

Once upon a time, when I cooked for the Redhouse Cafe, I developed a sort of morning ritual. Arriving before the cafe and theater were showing any signs of life, I’d move seamlessly through the quiet and empty space. After flicking on lights and unlocking doors, I headed straight for the cutting board, dicing the onions which inevitably formed the base of our every homemade soup. And when I sauteed those onions in butter, people would gravitate toward the kitchen as they streamed in, as though pulled by a magnet; remarking every time, “What is that delicious smell?!” Onions and butter. They are magic.

And so it’s not surprising that they are the base of divine polenta. Here is exactly what you need for two bowls of deliciousness:

1/2 white onion
1 pat butter
1/2c coarse ground polenta
2 cups liquid (use any combo of milk, water, or broth to suit your tastes)
{I used 1/3c half-n-half and the rest water}
1 large portabella, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 splash balsamic vinegar

That is it! Magic. Here’s how to concoct your potion, err, meal:

Boil the liquids in a small saucepan and then add the polenta, whisking as you do. Add one clove of minced garlic (essential!). The polenta will need to cook at a low simmer for the next 30 minutes or so. Whisk it every few minutes to keep lumps from forming. You don’t need to dote but you do need to linger.

While your polenta cooks, start your onions — slice ’em in skinny half moons and add to a pan with melted butter. Cover and let them cook, low and slow, for awhile, stirring occasionally to keep them from sticking. Once they start to caramelize, they’ll be the best stuff on Earth. When they’re almost done, push them to the side and saute your mushroom slices. At the last minute, deglaze the pan with a splash of balsamic vinegar.

Pour your creamy polenta in a bowl, top with mushrooms and onions, add a dash of thyme, and enjoy. Divine!

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