Polenta with Spinach and Mushrooms. Also Roasted Broccoli. And Also Chicken.
cleaning out the crisper to make room for spring... and more asparagus
things you’ll need: polenta (or grits if you’ve got them), butter, parmesan, mushrooms, spinach, tomato paste, a little stock or soup base, optional wine, flour (GF works), broccoli, lemon, olive oil, thyme and or other herbs/spices of your choice, salt, pepper, and chicken thighs (optional)
I didn’t want to go full ragout but wanted something like Simmered Beans and Chard with Polenta, only using up my mushrooms and some bags of spinach that I over-purchased for smoothies. Thought I might as well make it schmaltzy by using the pan drippings left from my standard chicken thighs (cold pan method) and saucy like a Shepherd’s Pie base. Slapped it all together in like 40 minutes. Threw in some roasted broccoli because it needed to get cooked before it started to bloom in the crisper.
incidentally gluten-free if you use GF flour (as I did), vegetarian if you leave out the chicken and use butter/oil instead of schmaltz, vegan if you make a well-seasoned polenta and finish with nutritional yeast or sub vegan parm and butter.
Eat Well Enough is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Few flowers appear with as much fanfare as the snowdrop and crocus because they mark the true end of the dark and gloppy trudge out of winter. You have yet to see any.
Everything is waking, but you and spring are still cozy under the blankets somewhere, trying to keep your feet warm and dry. It’s not the lush romping through green fields flush with new blooms, but the mud-luscious season that feeds whatever future hopes to flower. Spring’s arrival is rarely pretty.
Before everything is peas and leeks, scapes, ramps, and radishes, work from your hearty pantry hoard and use patient vegetables that wait in the crisper until you are ready. Choose rich and brothy elixirs over the raw greens of a season that has yet to arrive with its promised bounty.
As so many meals often start, season the cut side of some chicken thighs with a generous amount of salt and squeeze lemon all over, then let those hang out at room temp for 30 min - 1 hour.
Preheat your oven to 375-425. Break down some broccoli crowns that have waited long enough for their turn. Toss them with salt, red pepper, and lemon juice. Smear a good coat of oil on a lined baking sheet (Silpat, parchment paper, or such) and place the cut-sides down on the oiled surface. Through many cold months of vegetable roasting, you have learned that this method gives your veggies the dark Maillard-ish char that brings you joy.
Start some polenta (or grits) in the instant pot (1c to at least 4c of water, s&p, for 9-11 minutes). It’s ok if you use quick grits or polenta and do it on the stove. It’s okay if you use the tube stuff. It’s ok if you make noodles or whatever carb best comforts you instead.
Clean and quarter a pound of mushrooms. Mince a shallot or onion. Thaw a cup or so of stock or mix up some hot water and soup base, maybe brew a porcini broth. Gather a little wine from a bottle you plan to drink or one you didn’t finish. If you don’t have a tube of tomato paste, open a whole can and then make little tablespoon dollops to freeze instead of trying to figure out how to use the rest of the can before it becomes its own biome. Take a heaping spoon of flour from its unruly container and set it aside in one of your adorably tiny prep bowls.
Oil up your skillet. Pat dry the skin side of your chicken and place in the cold pan. With the heat on medium-ish, cook until the skins are as brown and crisp as you like. Set aside. Pour off the drippings, leaving a Tablespoon or two behind. For vegetarian/vegan, skip this whole chicken bit and just heat up some delicious plant-based fats.
Pop your broccoli pan in the oven and roast for 10-20 minutes.
In your hot skillet, now full of fat, drop in your mushrooms and cook until they release their liquids, add a little salt, and cook until browned. Add shallots/onions (and or garlic) and cook for a few minutes until they soften. Add wine (if you are going to) and cook until evaporated. Add tomato paste and cook until slightly darkened (more caramelized maillard goodness). Sprinkle with a little flour, tossing it all together evenly. Add a cup of whatever stock/broth you have concocted and deglaze the pan. If it gets too thick, add a little more stock (or water). Although that’s a lot of steps, it goes pretty fast once you’ve got all your adorable tiny bowls full of mise en place ready to roll.
If you started with chicken, pile spinach on top of the saucy mushroom goodness, nestle the thighs on top to bake until they reach 165 (10ish minutes?). If no chicken, slowly fold in spinach, cover, and simmer until wilted and less unruly to stir. Salt and pepper to taste.
Finish your broccoli with parmesan, vegan or otherwise. Finish your polenta (or grits) with parmesan and butter (or vegan subs).
While it is a truth universally acknowledged that Daylight Savings Time only serves to terrorize our circadian rhythms as the clocks suddenly lurch forward, that one evening hour of daylight hour drags us into this puddle wonderful season. From the muddy grey gloom, color will bloom. In the meantime, cozy up with a warm bowl full of polenta to sop up all that rich and brothy magic.
As always, thank you for reading!
If you’d like to support this work, please consider becoming a paid subscriber. You can also give a gift subscription, hit that “Like” button, share, forward, follow on Instagram (@eatwellenough), or otherwise spread the word about this project.
I keep going because you keep reading 💚 🍽 💚
Leave a comment or drop a line at email@example.com