Northern Comfort: Parmesan Polenta with Mushroom Fricassee and Poached Eggs

I love comfort food. I love the idea of comfort food, the notion that food has the power to alter a black mood or a broken heart, or fortify a soul that feels too weary to go on. I love that it underlines and adds an exclamation point to the concept that food is love, or can be. I love that sometimes, it’s the only thing that can be counted on to go right in the midst of a maelstrom of wrong.


I bring this up because it’s been, to put it simply, an absolutely TERRIBLE week. It has been the kind of week that comfort food was made for, and believe me when I tell you that when I got home last night, there was no fucking around to be had with the kind of comfort I was determined to dish up. I took a two-pronged approach: I wanted the food to be soft and gentle, and I wanted it to contain insane amounts of butter and cream. After much hemming and hawing, I decided to use a recipe that Maggie recommended–polenta, buttery and creamy and studded with a fistful of fresh grated parmesan; served with a luscious mushroom fricassee and topped with poached eggs. Soft and forgiving; gentle but very very alive.

In short, it was EXACTLY what I needed. And, okay. it wasn’t exactly fast, and it wasn’t entirely simple (polenta, my friends, is a more complicated art than you’d think), but it was comfort in its purest form, at least for me. Because, you see, the comfort comes from more than just the food–it’s the ritual of preparation; the time spent at the stove in my small, warm kitchen; the challenge of making it right; the act of sharing it with someone I care about very much. The pleasure of setting aside some time that belongs exclusively to me, with very real challenges and very tangible rewards.

It’s about giving the finger to the hard angles of 21st century life and enjoying something unabashedly slow, calm, and soft. And full of butter.

Parmesan Polenta with Mushroom Fricassee and Poached Eggs

2c milk
1c water
1c polenta (or medium-ground corn meal)
1/2 c parmesan cheese, grated
salt and pepper

1-lb mixed mushrooms (your choice, really)
1 med onion, coarsely chopped
butter (this is to taste, but I recommend you keep a bunch on hand.)

2 eggs per person

  1. In a medium saucepan, boil the milk and water over medium-low heat.
  2. Add the polenta very slowly, whisking the whole time
  3. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for another 30 minutes or so, whisking every few minutes. Add more liquid if it becomes too thick.
  4. MEANWHILE, melt a knob of butter over medium-low heat. Saute the onions until just translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sautee until they’ve given off their liquid, and then re-absorbed it. About 20 minutes; then, remove from heat. Salt and pepper to taste.
  5. When the polenta has finished, whisk in the parmesan cheese and another knob of buter.
  6. Serve with two poached eggs per person, with a healthy dose of parmesan.
In cheese, eggs, mushrooms

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