March has arrived. Deep drifts of wet, heavy snow blanket our beloved Twin Cities, but deep underneath, the crocuses are getting their mojo going. Recipes like this one are perfect bridge dishes, linking the seasons, from winter to spring. Try ragout as a side dish for a roasted chicken dinner or on its own as a simple supper. For me, a perfect Sunday is spent cooking a double batch of the ragout. Freeze some, and serve the rest over a bowl of the polenta — you’ll feel like you are in the north of Italy, just into the lodge after a day skiing the Tyrolean Alps. Or the Afton Alps.
Ragout of Wild Mushrooms over Polenta
3 lb. mixed, fresh “wild” or cultivated mushrooms . . . cepes,
porcini, shiitakes, cremini, lobster mushrooms,
chanterelles, morels, trumpets, etc.
4 T. butter
2 minced garlic cloves
1/4 c. minced shallots
2 T. fresh thyme leaves
1 stem fresh rosemary
1/2 c. Marsala
3 c. homemade rich veal or beef stock
1/4 c. tomato puree
zest of 1/2 lemon
Trim and wipe-clean the mushrooms—do not wash with water. Place a large sauté pan (14”) over high heat and add the butter. When foaming, add the herbs, garlic, and shallots. When glassy, add the mushrooms and sauté until cooked through and beginning to brown. Add the tomato puree and sauté for 60 seconds. Add the Marsala and bring to a boil—this will happen almost immediately. Cook for 60 seconds more. Add the stock and reduce at a simmer by two-thirds. Season with salt and pepper, add the zest, and remove the rosemary stem. Serve the ragout spooned-over the polenta.
2 c. quick-cooking polenta . . . Alpina Savoie brand works great!
5–7 c. chicken stock brought just to a boil and kept simmering
on a low flame
1/2 c. cream . . . or more to taste
1 c. imported gorgonzola cheese
4 T. chopped parsley
1/2 c. minced onion
3 T. olive oil
Sauté the onions in the oil in a 4 qt. pot over medium heat. When the onions are glassy, add 4 c. of the simmering stock and then the polenta. Stir and cook for 8–10 minutes, adding stock as needed until polenta has lost its sandy texture when rubbed between thumb and forefinger. Lower heat a few notches. Add the cream and cheese. Stir and cook for 5 more minutes. Add the parsley, season, and serve.