Polenta with Asparagus, Mushroom Ragout and Truffle Oil

By Danielle Frum

It's spring! -- or what is known in our household as "asparagus season." We love asparagus so much that even after eating it week after week, we still aren't sick of it. Roasted, poached with butter, asparagus risotto -- there are so many ways to make it. This asparagus recipe comes from Jerusalem's famous Machneyuda restaurant -- which is located beside the equally famous covered food market Machane Yehuda.

The restaurant was founded in 2009 by three well-known Israeli chefs (above) who took inspiration from the neighboringshuk and its changing cornucopia of seasonal ingredients. When asked what type of food they planned to serve they replied, "Happy food." Indeed everything at the Machneyuda restaurant is happy, down to the singing and dancing kitchen crew. (You can read about my visit here.)

 
The founding chefs of Jerusalem's Machneyuda restaurant (left to right): Yossi Elad, Assaf Granit, and Uri Navon.  
Photo courtesy of Machneyuda.

 

The asparagus polenta is one of the restaurant's signature spring dishes. The addition of heavy cream to the polenta and final drizzle of olive oil make this one of the more luxurious recipes for asparagus I've come across.

If fresh local asparagus is not yet in your market, it will be soon. This is the perfect recipe with which to welcome the season.

For the mushroom ragout: 

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup assorted mushrooms, such as button, portabella, oyster, or shiitake, torn by hand
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the polenta

2 cups milk
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons instant polenta
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon shaved Parmesan cheese
Coarse salt and freshly ground white pepper

For the asparagus: 
6 thin asparagus stalks, trimmed and cut into 3-inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

For serving:
2 tablespoons shaved Parmesan cheese
Truffle oil, for drizzling

Make the mushroom ragout: Heat butter in a small heavy-bottomed skillet. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until thoroughly cooked, 25 to 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, make the polenta: Bring milk and heavy cream to a boil in a large saucepan over medium high-heat. Reduce heat to low and whisk in polenta; cook, whisking constantly, until thickened, 5 to 7 minutes. If mixture seems too thick, thin out with a little more milk or water. Whisk in butter and Parmesan cheese. Season with salt; cover and set aside.

Make the asparagus: Bring a large pot of water to a boil; generously salt water and return to a boil. Meanwhile, prepare an ice-water bath. Add asparagus to boiling water and cook until tender-crisp, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and transfer to ice-water bath. Drain and transfer to a medium bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper.

To serve, place 2 to 3 tablespoons polenta in each of four 1-cup Mason jars with lids. Add 1 tablespoon mushroom ragout to each jar. Top with 3 to 4 asparagus pieces and 2 to 3 Parmesan shavings each. Drizzle each jar with truffle oil; cover jars and serve.

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