This is totally not a retro recipe, but it is what we had for dinner tonight. This prompted @dtanton to tweet that the Polenta Funky Mushroom Lasagna was awesome. This of course brought requests for more info…which she can’t answer.
Let me preface the recipe by saying, I really didn’t think this would go over well. We are not big lasagna fans. @dtanton doesn’t like Italian food much at all and well, I am not the biggest fan of tomato sauce. She hates creamy sauces. We generally don’t do Italian food. We also are not huge polenta fans. About once a year I will fix something with polenta and it gets a meh response from both of us. For whatever reason, when pitching dinner ideas this week while flipping through the cookbook, we went with this one.
I prepped it Sunday, but we certainly were not rushing to eat it. The tofu apricot kugel went first (also in the Passionate Vegetarian-This is also excellent and totally the noodle kugel for anyone, unless your bubbe/zayde makes the only noodle kugel you can ever imagine enjoying) . Followed by the Pad Thai Wraps (pretty darn good-from Whole Foods frugal recipe gig)
Anyhow, it turned out to be a surprise favorite. Really surprise. BIG. Huge. Surprise. Awesome is not a word that describes many recipes in this house, not even long time favorites.
The original recipe came from the BEST Vegetarian cookbook ever written…Passionate Vegetarian by Crescent Dragonwagon (a nifty writer outside of cookbooks and she can teach you to be a fab one too). The Oven Baked Chicken Fried Tofu recipe also comes from there. Even if you are a dedicated omnivore, you should own this cookbook. Huge cookbook. Buy it. We have had tons of successful meals from it, the intros to the recipes and the discussion in general…WONDERFUL!!!!
The recipe originally called for 1/2 shiitake 1/2 lb button mushrooms. I split the difference and went with a pound of baby bellas. It called for a homemade basic Italian tomato sauce, I went with a jar. Freshly grated parmesan…umm yeah, it came in a can. sorry. Yeah, I would change that but shrug. So, below is not actually what happens in the book…but you can figure it out.
Polenta Lasagna with Mushrooms Bechamel
1/2 large onion
1 lb baby bella mushrooms, sliced
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons low-fat milk (err I used skim)
2 tablespoons cornstarch (Hey, did you know Argo comes in a little plastic canister now? way cool)
2 oz reduced fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup white wine (Gasp! Wine in the house! Thank you Redwood City Holiday Inn Express Priority Club check-in rewards. How long does a re-corked open bottle of wine last?)
Salt, freshly ground black pepper (err um, not so fresh here, sorry again) and freshly ground nutmeg. (No, we were out of even the not freshly ground sort. May have added dash of apple pie spice? maybe not)
3 1/2 cups spaghetti sauce
1 tube of plain polenta (or you could make your own or use pesto flavored) sliced in 3/8 thick slices (divide this into 4 piles now so you don’t run short like I did)
1/4-3/4 c. Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 375. (Skip this if you are prepping ahead like I did) Spray your 9 x13 pan with Pam. Set aside.
Spray a large skillet with cooking oil or dump a smidge of olive oil in it or both. Saute your onion until almost translucent. Add the mushrooms and continue to saute until it they start to get limp. Add the 3/4 cup of milk, bring to simmer.
Dissolve the cornstarch in the remaining 2 T. milk. When the mushrooms simmer, add the cornstarch mixture. It gets gummy at this point (or “thick and pasty”). Stir in the cream cheese and then the wine. When well blended, remove from heat, season to taste.
Spread some spaghetti sauce on the bottom of the pan. Then make a sparse layer of polenta slices (about 1/4 of the polenta). It won’t completely cover the bottom of the dish. Then dust it with Parmesan. Throw some mushroom mixture on top. Rinse and repeat. Ok, don’t rinse. Just repeat the sauce/Parmesan/polenta layering. I actually think I ended up with fewer layers because I didn’t remember the instructions very well and didn’t keep walking back and forth between cookbook and dish. (Stop here if prepping ahead)
Place in the preheated oven and bake until bubbly, 35-45 minutes. Allow to rest for 15 min after removing from oven for prettier slices (It smelled good, we didn’t wait.)