Have you ever had something that you expected to like, but didn't expect to love? You know, one of those things that you didn't even have to taste to know it would please your palate, but when your mouth started to do a happy dance, you were pleasantly surprised?
Polenta did that for me. Cornbread, sweet corn, and hominy are loves for me. So are grits, cream of wheat, and even *gasp* chocolate Malt-O-Meal. Therefore, I knew that neither the flavor, nor the texture would offend me with polenta. Still, I was a little shocked at my response when first trying what is essentially cornmeal mush. I couldn't get enough. I was a pig. Piggly wiggly. The creamy richness of this simple food won me head over curly little tail.
(adapted from In Good Taste)
4 (6-ounce) pork chops (boneless loin would be good, but I used 1/2" rib chops)
1/4 cup minced fresh rosemary
1/2 cup minced fresh thyme
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup coarse ground polenta
1 cup water
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon salt...to taste
1/2 cup mascarpone
4 tablespoons Parmesan
3 tablespoons butter
2-4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound morels, cleaned gently
2 shallots, minced
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
Fresh ground black pepper
For the marinade:
In a Ziplock bag, combine the ingredients for the marinade.
Add the chops and rub with the marinade.
Let marinate for 1 hour at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 6 hours.
Heat olive oil in a sauté pan.
Place the chops in the pan and cook until lightly browned on the first side, about 4 minutes.
Turn the chops and cook until the second side is browned and the chops are cooked through, about 3 minutes more.
Transfer the chops to a platter and tent with foil to keep warm.
For the Polenta:
Bring water, chicken stock, and salt to a boil.
Whisk in the polenta.
Reduce the heat to a very low simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the cheeses, butter and season as needed with salt and pepper.
Take the polenta off the heat and set aside.
For the Mushrooms:
Add the additional olive oil to the sauté pan from the pork chops and heat over a medium flame.
Add the mushrooms and sauté until they begin to brown and soften.
Add the shallots and minced garlic (you may need to add a little more olive oil).
Keep the mushrooms and shallots moving in the pan until they are fully tender.
Season lightly with salt and pepper.
Spoon polenta onto center of each plate; rest a pork chop on top of the polenta, and top with sautéed mushrooms.