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This is the creamiest polenta. Polenta is not a difficult dish to make, just time-consuming and should be made with real cornmeal, not the instant kind. That said, I found that using the instant kind and adding extra cream gave me an approximation of the real thing, and saved a lot of time. Mr. Poon uses both fresh and dried shiitake mushrooms to give the sauce loads of umami and flavour.

Servings: Four

Ready time: 1 hour 20 minutes


1½ cups milk

1½ cups water

½ cup whipping cream

½ cup medium cornmeal

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Mushroom Ragu

6 dried shiitake mushrooms

½ cup vegetable oil

½ cup flour

Salt to taste

½ cup shallots, thinly sliced

½ cup shallots, chopped

8 ounces (250 g) fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and chopped

¾ teaspoon Chinese five spice

1 teaspoon dark soy sauce

2 teaspoons light soy sauce

2 tablespoons chopped chives

¼ cup grated parmesan


Combine milk, water and cream in a large pot and bring to a boil. Pour in the cornmeal in a stream, whisking to incorporate and prevent clumping.

Reduce heat to low. Simmer polenta, stirring often to prevent sticking for 1 hour or until thick and creamy. Season with salt to taste. Keep warm until serving.

Stem dried shiitakes and cover with hot water for 20 minutes or until softened. Strain, reserving liquid and shiitakes separately. Dice shiitakes.

Heat ¼ cup vegetable oil in a small frying pan over medium-high heat. Combine flour and salt in a small bowl. Add sliced shallots and toss to coat. Shake off excess flour. Fry shallots in batches until crisp and golden. Place on paper towel-lined plate and set aside. Discard oil.

Heat remaining ¼ cup oil over medium-low in a skillet or sauté pan. Add chopped shallots and cook for 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and add fresh and dried shitake mushrooms. Cook, stirring often until mushrooms are cooked through, about 3 minutes.

Add five spice and deep-fried shallots. Stir together and cook gently for 2 more minutes or until flavours are combined. Add reserved mushroom liquid and soy sauces. Bring to a boil and simmer until thickened, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Puree with an immersion blender or food processor until slightly chunky and sauce-like. Spoon over hot polenta. Garnish with chives and parmesan.

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