Wild Mushrooms Take Over the World
When I was little I saw a TV show (Twilight Zone? One Step Beyond?) where a little boy was raising mushrooms in the basement. Turned out the mushrooms were actually alien spores from outer space that were programmed to take over the humans who ate the ‘shrooms, a la Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
No dummy me, I decided immediately that I would never eat another mushroom.
Fast forward to dinner at a Chinese restaurant with my family. I am happily eating an eggroll when I come across something in the eggroll that is especially good.
“What is this?” I asked my mother.
“I’m not going to tell you,” she said.
“What is it?” I insist.
“It’s a mushroom,” she replied.
So ended my brief boycott of mushrooms, which have since become one of my absolute, all-time favorite foods.
Use the best wild mushrooms you can afford in this ragu. This time of year, Whole Foods has all kinds of interesting wild mushrooms available. I used fresh cremini, shitake, and nameko mushrooms, along with rehydrated chantrelle and porchinis. Fresh chantrelles in the neighborhood of $85/pound are just out of my budget.
As you think about entertaining during the festive holiday season, here is one of my favorite recipes. It is incredibly impressive, versatile, and delicious. I served it over polenta, but you could toss it with pasta; pile it on top of toasty, crusty bread for a bruscetta; layer it inside filo dough; make the highlight of an omelet; spoon it over meat or chicken; or maybe in the center of an ooey-gooey smoked gouda grilled cheese sandwich.
No kidding, mushroom ragout could take over the world.
What You Need to Make Wild Mushroom Ragu
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb mixed fresh wild mushrooms chopped
2 oz dried wild mushrooms (I used porchini and chantarelle)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ C dry Sherry, Marsala or other dry white wine.
2 C chicken or vegetable broth
¼ C heavy cream
2 T chopped fresh thyme
¼ C chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley
How To Make Wild Mushroom Ragu
If you are using dried mushrooms, put them in a bowl and pour a cup of boiling water over them. Let it sit for 30 minutes. Remove rehydrated mushrooms, straining it through some cheese cloth to get the grit out. You can use it in place of some of the chicken or vegetable broth or save it for a soup or stew liquid.
In a large skillet heat the oil. When almost smoking, add the onions and garlic and cook over medium-low heat until the onions have wilted, about 8 minutes. Add the fresh and dried wild mushrooms and season with salt and pepper.
Raise heat to high and sauté until mushrooms are tender and all the liquid has evaporated. Remove pan from heat and pour in wine. Return pan to stove and allow wine to evaporate, about 3 minutes.
Add chicken or vegetable broth and simmer for ½ 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 mix thoroughly.