This meatless dish is hearty, comfort food – perfect for winter. Believe it or not, but it’s been dark and rainy here in Hawaii, and I think that it’s been that way for other typically sunny places like California as well. Inspiration struck me in the grocery store when I saw some organic polenta; I had a leaning towards something a little more luxurious but not too heavy. Big slabs of meat are not for me. :)
This ragu came together rather quickly. I used a combination of fresh white button mushrooms (cremini would be delicious), and had a packet of dried wild mushroom medley. Remember – save the liquid that you soak your dried mushrooms in; it makes a wonderful, rich sauce at the end and is a great alternative to using something like beef broth. All that umami you get in the mushrooms, tomato paste, and parmesan cheese sprinkled on these cakes at the end packs a lot of luscious flavor. These would be great as an appetizer or with a side salad. Take advantage of these last couple months of winter – what’s your favorite winter dish?
Winter Mushroom Ragu over Fried Polenta Cakes
For the Mushroom Ragu:
8 oz button or cremini mushrooms, halved
0.88 oz (25 grams) Dried Mushroom Medley (mix of Porcini, Shiitake, Black and Oyster Mushrooms), rinsed and soaked/reconstituted in 1 cup warm water; liquid reserved
1/2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
2 Tbsp finely chopped shallot
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1/8 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup reserved mushroom liquid
1/2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp Worchestershire sauce
2 Tbsp half-and-half
For the polenta cakes:
1-lb (16 oz) tube of prepared organic polenta
2 tsp olive oil
Freshly grated black pepper
Parmesan cheese, for grating
Fresh chives, for garnish
1. In a medium skillet, heat up the 1/2 Tbsp olive oil and 1/2 Tbsp butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for about 1 minute; then add the garlic. Add the button/cremini and reconstituted dried mushrooms to the pan. Add the thyme and rosemary; sprinkle with salt. Cover the pan and cook for another 3-4 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender.
2. When the mushrooms are tender, transfer them to a bowl. Add another 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter to the pan along with 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour, stir together until the flour mixture begins to darken and bubble, about 1 minute. Add the mushroom liquid, tomato paste, Worchestershire sauce, and a pinch of salt to the mixture, stirring constantly until the mixture begins to thicken and reduce a bit, about 2-3 minutes. Add the mushrooms back into the pan; combine all ingredients and season to taste. At the end, stir in the half-and-half. Take off the heat.
3. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Slice up the polenta into 12 1/2″-thick circles and fry both sides until golden brown, and drain on paper towels when done. Freshly crack black pepper on both sides.
4. Assembly: Plate the polenta cakes in a single layer. Spoon the mushroom ragu evenly over the cakes; top with freshly grated parmesan cheese, more black pepper if you like, and sprinkle with fresh chives.