Monday, November 20, 2006

Wild Mushroom Ragout And Creamy Cheesy Polenta

I've been making variations of this recipe for over 20 years and I never fail to change something about it everytime I do. I've used cheddar and jack cheeses, all white button mushrooms, large portobellos, different kinds of polenta. I've made it vegetarian and not vegetarian. It lends itself to adaptation. The recipe that follows is the way I prepared it for dinner guests the other night. They had to look twice to make sure they weren't eating meat.

A note to low carbers: For those of you who count carbs, you should know that polenta is not a low carb food. You can enjoy the ragout with a small spoonful of polenta, or skip the polenta entirely and use Dreamfield's Pasta. 'Twould be dreamy, I'm sure.

Wild Mushroom Ragu With Creamy, Cheesy Polenta
Click here to print recipe
For the polenta
2 cups dry polenta (I used a locally made product from Fanucchi-Salizzoni Food Company)
10 cups water (or stock, but I used water for this)
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
freshly cracked black pepper
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup parmesan, grated coarsely

For the Ragout
1-2 pounds assorted mushrooms, I used crimini, shiitake and oyster, cleaned and sliced
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ro 5 sprigs fresh thyme
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup good, dry red wine (I used the Cab we were going to serve with dinner)
1 cup good beef broth
1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter

In a large stock pot, bring the water to a rolling boil.
Whisking, add the polenta to the water in a steady stream. Continue whisking until the polenta thickens.
Turn down the heat so the polenta stays at a simmer. Stir in the salt and pepper. Whisk occasionally so it doesn't burn on the bottom.
When the polenta has thickened, remove the pot from the heat and add the parmesan and the butter, stirring until they have both melted and the polenta is smooth.
Cover the pot with a clean, dry towel and top with a lid. Set aside in a warm place.

In a large pot or very large skillet, melt the 3 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat.
Add the mushrooms to the pot and stir to completely coat with the butter.
Saute the mushrooms until they are golden brown, stirring occasionally, and very soft.
Add the thyme sprigs (you will remove the sprigs at the end of cooking, leaving the tiny leaves in the ragout) to the pot and season the mushrooms to taste with salt and pepper.
With the mushrooms still in the pot or pan, deglaze the bottom of the pan with the red wine, scraping up any browned bits of mushroom.
The mushrooms will have created their own juices during the saute process. Reduce this wine and mushroom liquid by half.
Add the beef broth and repeat the reducing process until the liquid is reduced by 1/2 again and has thickened, covering all the mushrooms with a juicy sauce.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the 1 or 2 tablespoons butter to create a velvety-smooth sauce.

To serve, spoon hot polenta onto a plate and ladle the mushroom ragout over the top.

Cook's Notes:
If this dish seems too butter-loaded for you, I've used both Smart Balance and Earth Balance spreads with good results.
11-21-06: I added the forgotten bag of polenta photo today. Sorry about the double post. This polenta mix contains sun-dried tomato, bell peppers and a chicken base.