SATISFACTION GUARANTEED. I developed this dish by way of request from Constance (Make a Request!). She wrote the following: “My mom used to make polenta on top of the stove with bacon and onion and then bake it to get a nice crisp crust. Any ideas?” Constance, this gave me some grrrreat of ideas and you’re going to love the final result!
I’m also going to introduce you to some friendly mushroom people and tell you about an exciting giveway opportunity!
Polenta baked with onions and bacon sounded too good to resist. I set to work and during the process added some additional ingredients. I ended up with baked polenta strewn with caramelized onions, mushrooms, Swiss chard, and bacon and then topped with Parmesan and Mozzarella. Oozing, aromatic and flavorful. A wonderful aroma filled my kitchen as it baked. The end result was so delicious that I put a couple of pieces on a plate and dashed them over to my parents who only live a few minutes away. They took one bite and gave me an enthusiastic nod of approval.
I’ve made this dish twice already. SO good.
Constance, wherever you are, thank you for putting in this request! This is one of the reasons I added this feature to my site. I’ve gotten so many great requests and from those requests many fantastic recipes have been born which otherwise may not have been. Baked Polenta with Mushrooms, Bacon & Swiss Chard is now a Killebrew family favorite.
Lovely, Lovely Porcini
Something that really brings this dish to life is the addition of some very special mushrooms. Porcini. Dried porcini mushrooms are ground to a powder and added to the dish. Porcini have an amazing flavor. Robust and earthy, a little bit goes a long way. Several of my recipes call for porcini mushrooms, including my Chicken Marsala, Chicken Cacciatore with Polenta, and Creamy Fettuccine with Shiitake & Porcini. They have become one of my favorite mushrooms and I sneak them in wherever opportunity allows.
The first time I used them I fell in love. The aroma, the flavor…wow! I was so inspired that I broke out in song (literally) and my husband laughed from the other room as he heard me singing my original composition from the kitchen. To be sung in traditional Italian ballad form and with a strong Italian accent – ROLLLL those R’s!:
Porcini, porcini, my lovely porcini,
My sweet little mushroom from Italy!
Porcini, porcini, my lovely porciniiiiiiiiii…
My sweet little mushroom tastes good to me!
I can’t help it. I was born this way.
The Friendliest Mushroom People I’ve Met
I received my porcini mushrooms for review from FungusAmongUs. Based in my home State of Washington, they advertise carrying the largest selection of organic and wild crafted mushrooms in North America along with a variety of mushroom products likes vinegars, oils, and seasoning blends. Their mushrooms are harvested, dried and packaged each season and can be purchased on their website and in many stores, including some major grocery chains, across the nation. Considering how much I’ve come to love FungusAmongUs’ porcini mushrooms, I was curious about their other products and thought it was high time I try some of them. Especially since so many of their marvelous mushrooms are freshly harvested right here in my backyard. Well, not literally in my backyard (I wish they grew in my backyard!), but right here in the beautiful mountains and forests of my home state. These super friendly mushroom people shared a few of their products with me and I’m going to be reviewing them. Please note that I am not being paid or otherwise compensated for this and the opinions expressed are my own.
The Skinny On Dried Mushrooms
I hadn’t had much experience using dried mushrooms until recently. Many gourmet chefs prefer dried over fresh – the flavor is often more intense. Mark Bittman of the NY Times noted that dried wild mushrooms are “among the most flavorful ingredients you can keep in your pantry.” I have been coming to learn firsthand how very true that is. Dried mushrooms are also more convenient. You can keep a large variety of them stocked in your pantry, having access to them any time you need them without worrying about them going bad in the fridge. And often they’re cheaper. With many of them, a little goes a long way. I had been using my previous bag of porcini for almost a year before getting a new package. Lastly, with dried mushrooms you have access to a far greater variety than with fresh. For example, when was the last time you found fresh black trumpet, lobster, maitake, or matsutake mushrooms at your grocer? Bottom line: Dried mushrooms are often more flavorful, more convenient, more accessible, and cheaper. Not bad.
Let’s get to the recipe!
You need very little porcini, enough to make the equivalent of a teaspoon or so. Grind the porcini in a spice or coffee grinder (or put the porcini in a baggie and pound). Set aside. You can also reconstitute the porcini and chop them instead of adding them in powder form (place the dried porcini in a bowl, pour boiling water over them, soak for 30 minutes, drain and squeeze out the liquid).
Fry the bacon.
Once done, transfer the bacon to a plate, leaving the bacon grease in the skillet. Crumble the bacon.
Slice the onions and mince the garlic.
Did I cook the onions in the bacon grease? You bet I did! A German phrase I like to use when faced with tempting moments like this is “Wenn schon, denn schon,” which basically means if you’re going to do it, do it right. Moving right along…
Saute the onions until tender and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Transfer the onions to a plate, reserving 1/3 of them.
Chop the Swiss chard.
Saute the mushrooms until tender, adding some extra virgin olive oil if too dry, about 5 minutes. Add the ground porcini and cook for another minute. Add the Swiss chard to the mushrooms and continue to saute until the chard is wilted and tender, about 3-4 minutes.
Return the bacon and 2/3 of the onion mixture to the skillet. (The first time I made this I added the porcini at this point. Follow the directions above the previous picture to coax even more flavor out of the porcini). Stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Prepare the polenta. Use coarsely ground cornmeal.
In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a boil. Add the cornmeal in a gradual stream, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook, whisking frequently, for about 20 minutes until the mixture pulls away from the sides in a sticky mass.
Add the reserved onions and 1 tablespoon of butter. Stir to combine.
Lightly grease a 8X8 inch baking dish and firmly press the polenta into the bottom of it. Refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 2 days.
For a firmer polenta crust, bake it in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F for 15-20 minutes until slightly crispy. Then proceed with the toppings as instructed.
Spread the bacon/vegetable mixture over the polenta.
Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Top with Mozzarella cheese.
Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 35-40 minutes until the cheese is melted and just beginning to turn light brown in places. Let sit for 5 minutes and serve immediately. Serve with a leafy salad.
- 3 slices bacon
- 1 medium yellow onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 cup cremini mushrooms, sliced (or mushroom of your choice)
- 2 cups Swiss chard, chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground dried porcini mushrooms
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1¾ cup chicken broth
- ½ cup coarsely ground cornmeal
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
- 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
- In a medium skillet, fry the bacon until crispy and transfer to a dish, leaving the bacon fat in the skillet. Add the onions and cook until tender and translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Transfer the onions to a bowl, reserving ⅓ of them.
- Add the cremini mushrooms and cook until tender, adding some extra virgin olive oil if too dry, about 5 minutes. Add the ground porcini and cook for another minute. Add the Swiss chard and cook for another 3 minutes until the leaves are wilted and tender, about 3-4 minutes. Return the onions and bacon to the skillet, and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a boil. Add the cornmeal in a gradual stream, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook, whisking frequently, for about 20 minutes until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan into a firm, sticky mass. Add the reserved onions and 1 tablespoon of butter. Stir to combine.
- Lightly grease a 8X8 inch baking dish and firmly press the polenta into the bottom of it. Refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 2 days. (*See Note)
- Spread the bacon/vegetable mixture over the polenta, sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and top with the mozzarella cheese.
- Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 35-40 minutes until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown. Let sit for 5 minutes and serve immediately.