Mushroom and Blue Cheese Polenta

“Cabernet Franc is an all-around family favorite so I wanted to create a dish for both meat lovers and vegetarians.  I’ve always been a huge fan of polenta and blue cheese, but never have put the two together.  This dish helps soften the tannins and accentuate the cherry and blackberry notes in the wine.”
– Kristy Ramirez, Hospitality Director

– Serves 4-6 –

¼ lb. Italian sausage, optional
3 cups white button mushrooms, chopped and stems discarded
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Black pepper
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
2 ½ cups chicken stock
2 cups half-and-half
¾ cup fine cornmeal
¼ cup Italian mascarpone cheese
4 oz. blue cheese, crumbled

Method of Preparation:
Preheat oven to 375°.

If incorporating optional Italian sausage: In large saucepan, cook sausage until done, then remove from pan and set aside.

Remove mushroom stems, then wash and chop.  In a large saucepan on medium heat (you can use same saucepan used for Italian sausage), add mushrooms, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, ¼ tsp. salt and ¼ tsp. pepper and cook for approximately 2 minutes or until mushrooms have absorbed most of the liquid, then add the garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Using the same saucepan, pour the chicken stock and half-and-half into the pan and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and slowly add cornmeal, whisking constantly.  Simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, or until polenta is thick and smooth, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.  Once done, remove saucepan from heat and stir in mascarpone, 1 tsp. salt, ½ tsp. black pepper and mushrooms (and Italian sausage, if desired).

In an 8×11 baking dish, add polenta and smooth out into an even layer.  Sprinkle blue cheese crumbles over top and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until polenta is bubbly and cheese is melted.  Remove from the oven and serve hot.