Mushroom Ragout with Polenta

I typically go meatless several days a week, but I especially try to abide by Meatless Monday. I like to think of it as a re-set after indulging in beef tacos and/or a slab of pork belly on the weekend. That said, I try not to make a meatless day too bleak by comparison. Mushrooms – lots of them – are nearly always my go-to in this situation.
High on the comfort food spectrum, this mushroom dish is hearty, complex and warming. I chose to serve it over a pillowy bed of polenta to feel the maximum love. (Doesn’t a big buttery mound of sunny-colored polenta topped with a thick vegetable gravy feel like a big hug to you? Is that just me?) I would happily serve this with buttered and herb-flecked rigatoni, over just-set scrambled eggs or with a big hunk of crusty sourdough. Whatever melts your butter! (Literally.)

Mushroom Ragout
Adapted from David Tanis’ recipe as seen on The Kitchn

– 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
– 1 large onion, finely diced
– salt and pepper
– 1 pound mushrooms (I used cup mushrooms and white button mushrooms), cleaned and sliced
– 3 garlic cloves, smashed to a paste with a little salt or Microplaned
– 1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme
– 2 teaspoons finely chopped sage
– 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
– 1 tablespoon tomato paste
– 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
– 2 cups porcini mushroom broth (see recipe below), warm

In a large pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring well, until it begins to brown. Lower the heat to medium, season the onions with salt and pepper, and continue stirring until nicely caramelized, about 5 minutes. Remove the onion to a small bowl.

Return the pan to the heat, add the remaining tablespoons of olive oil, and turn the heat to high. Add the mushrooms, stirring well to coat with oil. Keep the heat high and sauté the mushrooms until they brown lightly.

Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper, add the garlic, thyme, sage, and pepper flakes, and stir well. Reduce the heat to medium, add the browned onion and the tomato paste, and stir well to coat the mushrooms and to dry the mixture slightly. Cook for another 2 minutes, stirring.

Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir it in. Ladle in 1 cup of the hot mushroom broth, stirring well as the mixture thickens. Add another cup of hot broth and let the ragout cook for another 5 minutes. If it’s too thin, cook it a bit longer; if too thick, add a bit more broth. Taste for seasoning. (The ragout can be made a few hours ahead and reheated.)

Porcini Mushroom Broth
– 3 cups water
– 1 bay leaf
– 4 or 5 slices of dried porcini mushrooms
– half a small onion
– 1 small celery stalk
– 1 small carrot, peeled and chopped

Place all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer a cook for 30 minutes. Strain to to use.

For Polenta:
Different types of polenta call for different methods, so follow the instructions on your polenta packaging. When mine was finished cooking I stirred in 2 tablespoons of butter, a bit of salt and several grinds of pepper.