2 leeks, minced
4-6 shallots, minced
8 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup yellow cornmeal (fine or medium granulation)
2 cups cold water
2 cups milk
1/2 cup + 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 lb total wild mushrooms (a variety -- pleurottes, shiitakes, portobellos, cepes, chanterelles)
1/2-1 tsp minced garlic (to taste)
1/4 cup Madeira wine
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 tsp chopped fresh thyme, or a pinch of dried thyme
1/4 tsp chopped fresh sage, or a pinch of dried sage
To make the polenta: In a large sauce pan or stock pot, sauté the leeks and shallots slowly in 2 Tbsp butter (reserve the other 2 Tbsp butter). When the leeks are soft and translucent, add the milk, 1 cup of water, and 1/2 tsp salt, and bring to a boil; while the milk is heating, combine in a bowl the remaining water and the cornmeal to make a very loose paste. When the milk boils, whisk in the cornmeal paste. Bring back to the boil, stirring rapidly to avoid lumps. Turn heat to low, and allow the polenta to simmer. Stir occasionally. After approximately 10 minutes, start to test the polenta by spooning a small amount onto a counter or plate. When cool, the polenta should be firm and set. Finish by stirring in 2 Tbsp butter and 1/2 cup of cheese. Pour into a lightly buttered mold or cake pan and allow to set. While the polenta is cooling, preheat the oven to 450°F.
To make the braised mushrooms: Clean and slice the mushrooms. In a sauté pan over medium heat, sauté garlic in 2 Tbsp butter. Add mushrooms and continue to cook until the mushrooms have become soft. Add Madeira and chicken stock, and cook until reduced to a light syrup; then add thyme and sage and finish with the remaining 2 Tbsp butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To serve, cut polenta into 8 equal pieces, place on a buttered baking dish and top with the remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Bake for 15 minutes at 450°F. Serve polenta on warm plates, topped with the wild mushrooms. Garnish with a fresh thyme sprig.