Man: Where is the meat?
Me, trying to explain: Eeerrr...
To me, this almost vegan mushroom ragoût with oven-baked polenta (minus the chicken stock) is a simple but elegant autumn meal to eat.
To my husband and son, these are plain boring!
With much persuasions, both father and son reluctantly eat most of these but the poor me had to tolerate all these no-meat winching. My son can tell that I was feeling a little disappointed and gave me a sympathetic thumbs up...
We love mushrooms and eat at least a large bag of mushrooms at least once a week. I wasn't expecting any of these negative remarks and wonder if I have cooked this mushroom dish well enough with my Italian-Asian mushrooms combination. Accordingly to Nigella's description, the more wild ones the better... I wasn't too sure about eating too much wild mushrooms with unexpected assorted woody, tough or chewy textures. And so, I didn't want to take the chance of exploring the wild mushrooms and choose to play safe cooking with these three types of mushrooms that can be commonly found in our local deli and supermarket.
My first choice is porcino. Widely distributed in the Northern Hemisphere across Europe, Asia, and North America, these mushrooms are not found naturally in the Southern Hemisphere. It is very difficult to cultivate and mostly sold being dried. It is used in many cuisines especially in Italian pasta or risotto. My second choice is shiitake which is a commonly consumed by most Chinese and Japanese with a strong earthy taste. My third choice is the mild-tasting oyster mushroom. I chose this for its thick, meaty white stem and also its milder taste to neutralize the overall combination of other stronger-tasting mushrooms.
To me, although these mushrooms in this Italian-Asian combination seems unusual but should be nice for a balance of texture and taste. However, knowing that these are boring for my husband and son, I'm now asking myself... Are these mushrooms not wild enough for us?... As you read further and you will see why...
|Mushroom ragoût with oven-baked polenta|
|My mushroom number one: porcino|
|The other two types mushrooms that I have used and other ingredients|
|Cooking the onions and celery...|
|... and the mushrooms|
|Cooking the sauce for this dish|
|All done! This Italian-Asian mushroom combination looks good, isn't it?|
|Preparing the polenta for baking|
|Eating the mushrooms with the baked polenta. Nice for me but not for my husband and son...|
|Here's the sympathetic thumbs up from my son :(|
Here are the recipes.
(with my personal notes in blue)
Mushroom Ragoût adapted from the book, How to Eat by Nigella Lawson
(which half of the original recipe)
400g fresh mushrooms, or a combination of wild and cultivated
(I used a combination of 80g dried and soaked porcini, 150g abalone mushroom and 100g shiitake)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
1 red onion, sliced finely
2 stalks celery, sliced thinly
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2/3 cup dry red wine (original recipe uses 175 ml and I'm using 160 ml for half the recipe)
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp thyme leaves
1/2 tbsp flour, preferably Italian OO
200ml chicken stock
50ml "mushroom water", water that I have used to soak the dried porcini
extra thyme to garnish
Wipe mushrooms thoroughly, trim off tough or woody stems and slice or cut them into generous pieces.
Heat 1 tsp of olive oil in a frying plan and sauté the onion and celery in a pan until they begin to soften.
Add garlic and some salt and pepper and continue cooking until onions begin to brown. Add half the red wine and half the Marsala, bay leaf and thyme. Turn down the heat and simmer gently until wine cooks away.
In a separate pan, sauté mushrooms with 1 tsp of olive oil, 1 tbsp of butter and a pinch of salt until their excess liquid cooks away and begin to colour. Add the remaining wine and Marsala and allow the wine to simmer down. Transfer onions to the mushrooms.
Re-use the pan that was used to sautéed the onions. In this pan, melt 1 tbsp of butter. Stir in the flour and keep stirring for a few minutes while it turns golden. Whisk in the stock and mushroom water. Add this sauce to the mushrooms and onions. Simmer very gently for 10 mins. Serve with steamed or boiled rice or polenta.
Oven-Baked Polenta adapted from the book, How to Eat by Nigella Lawson or here
Butter for greasing dish and foil
1.8L stock (any kind) or water
(I used chicken stock)
Salt to taste
350g polenta meal
Butter a shallow 2 1/2- to 3-quart baking dish or ramekins, and set aside. Place stock or water and salt into a large saucepan, and bring to simmer. Remove pan from heat.
Heat oven to 350°F or 160°C fan forced. Slowly pour polenta into stock, stirring rapidly with a wooden spoon. Place pan on medium heat. Slowly bring to a boil, stirring constantly in same direction. Boil 5 mins, continuing to stir.
Pour polenta into buttered dish or ramekins, and cover with buttered foil. Bake for 1 hour or 45 min for ramekins. Remove foil and serve.
Happy Cooking and Baking
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