Sunday, June 8, 2008

Cookbook Challenge: Mushroom Ragu

I am behind schedule in my cookbook challenge. For the month of May I was cooking from Giada's Everyday Italian, and now it's getting close to mid-June and I'm just now posting my last recipe. Things got busy somewhere in there! I think for the month of June I'm going to take a break, since we're already a week into the month. I will still be cooking though, maybe even from cookbooks... we'll see what happens! Come July, though, I'm going to go back to focusing on one cookbook for the month. This challenge to myself has been great so far-- I'm doing a much better job of utilizing the collection of cookbooks that was previously collecting dust on the shelf.

I have to admit I tweaked the mushroom ragu recipe just a little, because I had a couple extra ingredients on hand that I didn't want going to waste. I decided to research a little bit online, and it turns out the vegetarian feature of this dish makes it a fake ragu, since traditional ragu involves slow cooked meat. So I decided if it wasn't too authentic in the first place, that was all the more reason to add onto it to make it my own. The recipe below is Giada's original version, and in red I've added my changes. It was a substantial, satisfying dish, which really hit the spot. I served it over quick and easy baked polenta, with sauteed asparagus and salad on the side. We didn't miss the meat at all, which is the sign of a good vegetarian dish from my meat-eating point of view. I don't see myself making this again incredibly soon, but come fall and winter it will be a dish that shows up on our table on a more frequent basis.

Everyday Italian Review-- I was really happy with my choice of cooking more out of this cookbook. Overall, the recipes are simple, fresh, and great tasting. I would like to challenge myself to cook more complicated dishes, but for a busy weekday night, these are the kinds of recipes I'm looking for. I appreciate that the ingredients are easy to find, and that there are no really intensive methods involved. This cookbook has been one that has really helped me gain confidence in the kitchen, and I'm sure it will remain a go-to source even as I move on to more challenging recipes.

Mushroom Ragu
- from Everyday Italian

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, min
1 pound mixed mushrooms (cremini, oyster, shiitake-- I used portabella, cremini, and shiitake) chopped
2 Tbsp chopped fresh sage leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup Marsala
1/2 cup tomato paste
2 cups chicken broth
1/3 cup heavy cream
5 fresh basil leaves, chopped (I omitted)
1/4 cup flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped
1/2 to 3/4 cup grated Parmesan

In a large skillet heat the oil. When almost smoking, add the onions and garlic over medium-low heat until the onions have wilted, about 8 minutes. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Raise heat to high and saute until mushrooms are tender and all the liquid has evaporated. Stir in the fresh sage when the liquid is about halfway reduced.

Remove pan from heat and pour in Marsala. Return pan to stove and allow wine to evaporate, about 3 minutes. Add chicken broth and tomato paste (stirring well) and simmer for 1/2 hour until the sauce has reduced by half. Add heavy cream and mix well. Take the pan off the heat and add the fresh herbs and Parmesan and mix thoroughly.

Baked Polenta
- from Everyday Italian by Giada de Laurentiis

Vegetable oil, for greasing pan
1 (16-ounce) package instant polenta
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Sea Salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease an 11 by 17-inch baking sheet pan with oil. Line pan with waxed paper. The oil will secure the waxed paper onto the pan.

In a large pot bring to a boil 2 quarts of salted water. Stir in extra-virgin olive oil. When water has reached a boil, reduce heat to medium high and slowly add the polenta, whisking constantly for 3 minutes. When polenta is thick and smooth, pour it into the prepared pan. Spread the polenta evenly.

Bake in oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan. Note: the polenta will not brown or change in color. When cool enough to handle, cut into any shape you desire.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would like to point out that if a dish contains chicken broth it is not vegetarian, and technically (sorry for this) not even meatless. I suggest finding a really good mushroom stock and using that in it's place to make it vegetarian.