Baked Polenta with Mushrooms and Sausage

Any polenta recipe begs for creative adaptation, so feel free to riff on this one to your heart’s content. As I mentioned in the post, any sausage works here, and if you can’t find or don’t have bulk sausage, just remove the casings from your favorite link sausage (we’re talking raw sausage here). You could easily give this a Mexican twist using chorizo and cotija cheese instead of parmesan and swapping out the mushrooms for roasted peppers. And I can’t help but think that any of these versions would be even better with a fried egg on top. But then again, what wouldn't?

1 cup polenta

4 cups water

1 cup whole milk (you may not need all of this)

2 teaspoons salt

4 tablespoons butter, divided

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

10-12 oz mushrooms, sliced (I use crimini)

8 oz bulk sausage (or removed from the casings of link sausage)

1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese (or Pecorino or Parmesan)

Chopped fresh parsley

(optional topping of fried eggs)

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the polenta in a 2-quart baking dish, and stir in the water and 2 teaspoons salt. Bake for 45 minutes uncovered. Remove from the oven and stir in half of the milk, 2 tablespoons butter and the parmesan cheese, and return the polenta to the oven for 15 more minutes. Stir the polenta really well and add more milk if it seems too thick. Taste for salt and cover with foil to keep warm until ready to serve.

2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons butter in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and sprinkle with salt to taste. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms give up their moisture, about 5 minutes. Crumble the sausage into the pan with the mushrooms, using a wooden spoon to break up the sausage as it browns. Cook through, taste for salt and add a few grinds of cracked black pepper. Cover and keep warm until the polenta is done cooking.

3. To serve, spoon the polenta onto a serving platter or shallow bowl. Scatter the mushroom and sausage mixture over the top of the polenta and sprinkle with the grated cheese and chopped parsley. Top with fried eggs if you desire.