For the polenta
1 cup polenta
2 cups water
1 tsp salt
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
For the creamy mushrooms
2 cups cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 heaping tsp white flour
1/3 cup rosé wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
Rectangular baking dish
1. In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add salt. Slowly add polenta and whisk to combine. Reduce heat to low, cover, and allow to simmer for about ten minutes, stirring frequently, until water is fully absorbed. Remove from heat. Stir in one tablespoon of butter. Pour into a rectangular dish. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes on the counter top, then place in refrigerator. Cool for at least four hours, until polenta has set. To speed the process, you can cool it in the freezer for 30 to 45 minutes instead.
2. Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium-high heat (about five minutes; watch carefully and don’t let them burn!). Set aside.
3. To make the polenta sticks, turn the dish upside down on a plate or cutting board. The polenta should be fairly loose and slide out easily. If it doesn’t, gently loosen it from the sides of the dish with a splatula. Make sure it is completely cooled through. Using a large knife, cut the polenta loaf into half-inch-wide strips, then half again horizontally, so that you are left with nice polenta sticks (see picture).
4. Melt remaining butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil. Place polenta sticks in the skillet and fry on each side until just browned, about ten minutes per side. Flip carefully with a spatula. Each piece of polenta should be ever-so-slightly crispy and golden brown.
5. Meanwhile, in a smaller pan, melt half the butter for the mushrooms over medium heat. Add mushrooms, salt, and pepper. Sauté for about five minutes, until mushrooms are just cooked. Deglaze pan with the wine, and continue stirring, allowing the mushrooms to absorb the flavor as the alcohol evaporates. Add the other half of the butter and the flour and stir continuously until a roux is formed. Reduce heat to low. Add cream and stir thoroughly for an additional two or three minutes, until cream is heated through and well mixed. You will now have a very flavorful, creamy mushroom sauce. For a thicker sauce, add flour; for thinner, add water.
6. To serve, splash some balsamic vinegar on each plate (if desired), then add the fried polenta strips, using a slotted spatula to remove them from the pan while draining off most of the grease. Top with a dusting of parmesan, then spoon the creamy mushrooms over the top. Add a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts and the shredded basil, and serve immediately.