Monday, November 15, 2010

Polenta Gratin with Mushrooms and Cheese

This easy main dish meal is comfort food for grown-ups.

  • 1 (16-ounce) tube of polenta
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 (8-ounce) package presliced mushrooms
  • 1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup vegan sun-dried tomato Alfredo sauce*
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup shredded vegan cheese
1. Cut the polenta into 1/4-inch thick slices, and arrange the slices in an 11x7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray - the slices should overlap slightly; set aside.

2. Heat a medium skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat.  Add the mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the garlic and salt; cover, reduce heat, and cook for 2 minutes.  Stir in the Alfredo sauce and basil.

3. Pour the mushroom mixture evenly over the polenta, and top with the cheese.  I've been hearing rave reviews from my fellow vegans about Daiya shredded cheese, so tonight was my first time putting it to the test, using their shredded mozzarella to mimic the Fontina called for in the recipe I was following.  I am happy to report that it melts beautifully and tastes great.

4. Bake the gratin at 500 degrees for 7 minutes, then divide into 3 equal portions.  I served this with some homemade focaccia bread (made with my trusty bread machine) and a spinach salad tossed in an Italian vinaigrette.

*The sun-dried tomato Alfredo sauce was a tricky one, and I had to ponder a bit before finding a solution.  Regular Alfredo sauce, of course, (named for restaurateur Alfredo di Lelio), is heavy on cheese, milk, and butter.  Luckily, I found a delicious Alfredo sauce mix from Edward & Sons (available online at, which you stir into water to make a sauce.  To get the sun-dried tomato aspect, I rehydrated three sun-dried tomatoes (packed without oil) in hot water for about 15 minutes, then combined the tomatoes with the prepared Alfredo sauce in a food processor and blended until smooth, adding about 2 tablespoons of the tomato soaking liquid to thin the sauce to the right consistency.  There are also numerous vegan Alfredo sauce recipes that pop up if you do a Google search, so whatever version you choose, use 1/3 cup for this recipe and save the rest for another use!

Nutrition Info:
3 servings (1/3 of the gratin), Calories 221

Tasting Notes:
Given my improvisation on the sun-dried tomato Alfredo sauce, I think I got this just right - the decadent flavor of the tomatoes come through without overwhelming the rest of the dish.  The rest of it was wonderfully creamy - almost melt-in-your-mouth - and the perfect antidote to a chilly fall night.  The only thing I didn't like about the recipe was that the polenta slices felt... imprecise as a base for the rest of it.  I would almost prefer it with homemade polenta patted into the bottom of the baking dish in an even layer, which could then be divided into squares.  But taste-wise, this was out of the park!


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