Recently my husband and I took a trip up to Duluth, MN. It was *almost* my first time up there – we’d made the trip a couple years ago, encountered car problems as soon as we arrived, and had to turn right back around for a VERY stressful ride home, hoping the engine didn’t blow!
It was an amazing overnight vacation for us – much needed stress relief, and went a long way to temporarily quell some of my homesickness issues. I’ll tell you all about it and share some photos in a few days, but today, let’s talk FOOD.
We pulled over to have lunch as we drove a bit further up the north shore, using a maps app to find whatever was close. We settled on the Splashing Rock Restaurant, and we were thrilled – it was pretty much empty at the time we arrived (we love quiet restaurants!), and it had an amazing view of the lake. It was *perfect*. Their “North Woods Wild Rice & Forest Mushroom Burger” caught my eye, and I recommended it to my husband. Holy crap, it was probably the best sandwich (not really a burger) that either of us had ever had. Even before we left the parking lot, we knew I’d have to recreate it at home.
Well, I didn’t waste any time – I created this recipe the following day! Aside from changing “forest mushrooms” to the more accessible baby bellas, this recipe turned pretty much bang on… insanely delicious. Also, it gave us an opportunity to cook up some of the beautiful, long grained wild rice we picked up at a roadside shop on the trip.
This recipe is easy to do, but a little involved. Luckily, it makes an entire pan of the polenta patties – probably 10 servings? I forgot to count, and really, it depends on the size of bread you use. Either way – great payout for the effort, both taste wise and volumetrically! My husband was thrilled to live on these sandwiches for the entire week following the trip!
A bit of a confession: I didn’t bother making roasted garlic aioli myself – I roasted up a few heads of garlic and stirred it into commercially made mayo. Whatever – it was still amazing!
Wild Rice and Mushroom Polenta Sandwich
1 Tbsp Olive oil
2 leeks, white part only, thinly sliced
1 cup shredded carrot (about 2 carrots)
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 lb baby bella mushrooms, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, pressed
2 cups dry polenta
5.5 cups water
1 tsp+ salt
3/4 cup cooked, well drained wild rice
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2-3 tsp fresh thyme, finely minced
Freshly ground black pepper
Grainy sandwich bread
Roasted garlic aioli
Thinly sliced red onion
Slices of sharp cheddar cheese
In a large pot, combine olive oil, leeks, carrot, and mushrooms. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until liquid starts to “Sweat” from the veggies. Add garlic, continue to cook for one more minute.
Add polenta, water, and salt, bring to a boil. Cook, stirring constantly, until almost all of the water is absorbed by the polenta. Add cooked wild rice, continue cooking and stirring and the mixture starts to pull away from the sides.
Remove from heat. Stir in shredded cheese and fresh thyme until cheese is completely melted and incorporated, season to taste with pepper and additional salt, if desired.
Spray a standard cookie sheet (with sides!) with pan spray, spread polenta evenly throughout the pan. Cool to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for at least one hour.
Slice polenta into bread-sized pieces. Pour a little olive oil into a frying pan, heat slices of polenta over medium until warmed through. Turn the heat up to medium high, continue to fry until desired level of crustiness is reached.
Toast slices of grainy bread, spread with with roasted garlic aioli (purchased or homemade) and top with a few onion slices. Arrange 1 polenta slice on each sandwich, top with cheese and more onions if desired, and cap it off with a second slice of prepared bread.