Creamy Polenta with a Fricassee of Mushrooms
(makes 4 servings)
In a heavy-based saucepan, combine the cream and milk and heat over medium-high heat just until small bubbles begin to appear on the surface. Add the salt and whisk the cream and milk until quite frothy. (I don’t have a scientific explanation as to why this whisking step is important, but I know from experience that when I don’t do it, my polenta just doesn’t seem as delicious as usual. Since this initial whisk is easy and takes practically no time, I recommend that you do it, too.)
Add the polenta and continue to whisk the mixture as it comes to a boil. Continue whisking for an additional 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to very low, cover the pan, and cook the polenta, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until the cornmeal is completely cooked and quite tender, 1 hour and 45 minutes. Be patient; even if the polenta has thickened and seems good after an hour, longer cooking will make it even better. As the polenta cooks, a skin will form on the bottom and sides of the pan (if you are not using a nonstick pan), which is proper and which gives the polenta a slightly toasty flavor.
Just before serving, stir in the butter, grana Padano and chives, if using. The polenta should pour from the spoon as you serve it and will thicken as it cools. If necessary, you can thin the polenta with a little milk just before serving. Divide the polenta among heated bowls or plates.
Fricassee of Mushrooms
In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until they just begin tin color on their edges. Add the mushrooms and cook until the liquid is released. Add the chicken reduction, bring to a boil, reduce to a bubbling simmer and cook until the liquid is reduced by half. (You can prepare the mushrooms ahead up to this point; reheat them over medium-high heat just before serving.)
Have the polenta portioned out into warm bowls. Just before serving, reheat the mushrooms if necessary. Toss the mushrooms with the chives and drizzle a little of the truffle oil over the mushrooms. Be careful not to cook the truffle oil more than a few seconds, because the flavor and the aroma dissipate quickly. Spoon some mushrooms and some of the cooking juices over each serving of polenta.