It’s that time of year where besides Valentine’s and St Patrick’s we really don’t have much going on. Weddings aren’t happening, the holidays are over and football season has just come to an end. What a great excuse to throw a party! Make it easy and stick to heavy apps, just make sure you serve these little lovelies, mushroom polenta bites, and nobody will even think about dinner. They are beautiful, savory and really easy to eat in one bite which is always a great call for an app. You can even prep almost everything the day before you need them and assemble the day of to make it easy on yourself. Even better is how fancy and impressive they look given how simple they are to make. Don’t let the directions scare you, I just wanted to be thorough, they are as easy as making polenta and sauteing mushrooms (ok, now I’m hungry). I used a smokey eggplant spread from the grocery store as the sauce on each bite but you could totally mix it up and do marinara, pesto or even a tapenade. Give them a try and I promise your guests will be begging for more!
Polenta: Before you begin line a small 9×9 baking pan with parchment paper, spray with cooking spray and set aside.
I have to tell you I make a mean polenta. All I do is follow the package instructions but substitute chicken stock for water, and at the end throw in a dab of butter and a handful (sometimes two) of parmesan cheese. For this recipe use the liquid to polenta ratio your package dictates to make 1 cup of dry polenta…it is probably 2 cups of liquid, but keep the rest of the stock on hand and continue to add it as it becomes creamier. You will probably use around 3 cups of liquid (almost one carton of chicken stock). Once the polenta is creamy and smooth add the butter and parm and mix well.
Pour polenta into the parchment lined baking pan and spread the top so it’s smooth. Wrap up polenta and place in the refrigerator for about an hour, or until polenta has hardened. Take the polenta out of the pan, with the parchment still attached and cut into rounds with a 2 inch biscuit cutter or whatever you have on hand, I used a whiskey glass (you could also just use a knife and cut into squares or triangles). Place rounds on a parchment lined baking pan and drizzle with olive oil and set aside.
8 oz. thinly sliced crimini mushrooms
1 clove chopped garlic
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh chopped Italian parsley or fresh thyme
1 cup spread such as smoked eggplant, tapenade, marinara sauce
sliced Parmesan cheese (about 25 small slices, use a potato peeler or buy the pre-sliced at the store like I did…way faster!)
Meanwhile, dry saute mushrooms (dry, that means no oil) in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until mushrooms have softened, about 5-7 minutes. Now, add extra virgin olive oil, chopped garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley or thyme.
At this point you can call it a day, package everything up and store in the fridge until day of if you’d like…or you can keep going. If you finish assembly the next day set mushrooms out to bring to room temp as you grill the polenta rounds.
Heat grill pan on medium high heat, spray with olive oil and arrange rounds on top. Cook until each side forms a golden crust, about 4-5 minutes per side, and then set aside.
To assemble, spread sauce on top of each polenta round, top with a few mushrooms and finish with a slice of Parmesan cheese. Once you’re through the rounds and have them on your serving platter sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley or thyme. Enjoy!