Dinner Tonight: Kale and Mushrooms with Creamy Polenta

I really need to have more polenta in my life. I'm not sure why I never think about making it, or why it hasn't found it's way into my my pasta and rice rotation. It's a perfect base for all kinds of flavors. The last time I had it, a very traditional ragu was sitting on top. Unfortunately, that dish takes hours and hours to make. I wanted something satisfying and rich without requiring too much time.

Luckily I found this relatively easy recipe from Epicurious. The mixture of kale, mushroom and bacon combine to create an earthy topping that tastes a lot heavier than it probably is. In fact, upon sampling it toward the end of the cooking, I became concerned it was a little too heavy. That's until I remembered the lemon zest, added at the last moment. It's a remarkable addition that elevates the dish, making it more aromatic and, somehow, feel more light.

About the author: Nick Kindelsperger is a freelance writer in Chicago. He is the co-founder of The Paupered Chef and spends most of his time playing with the new cooking gadgets he got from his wedding.

Dinner Tonight: Kale and Mushrooms with Creamy Polenta

About This Recipe


  • 1/2 pound kale, stemmed, and roughly chopped
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 ounces pancetta or bacon, chopped
  • 2 ounces mushrooms (crimini, oyster, or shiitake), sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated


  1. 1

    Add the milk, water, polenta, salt and pepper to a large pot over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, whisking constantly, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick.

  2. 2

    Meanwhile, bring a medium-sized pot of water to a boil. Add the kale and cook for about 6 minutes. Drain the kale in a colander.

  3. 3

    Dump the bacon into a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until they are crisp, about 3 minutes. Remove the bacon. Add the sliced mushrooms to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they become tender, about 6 minutes.

  4. 4

    Add the kale, cooked bacon, garlic, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil and let reduce for about 5 minutes. Then turn off the heat and add the thyme and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

  5. 5

    Add the butter and Parmesan to the pot with the polenta. Stir until combined. Then spoon some of the polenta onto a plate and then top with the mushroom and kale.


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