Mushroom Ragu with Polenta and Truffle Oil Drizzle
Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl and add enough boiling water to cover. Soak for 10-15 minutes until well hydrated. Drain and reserve the soaking liquid.
Meanwhile, gather the ingredients for the polenta. In a medium saucepan, add 2 cups of the stock, salt, bay leaf, pepper flakes and milk. Bring just to a boil and begin to whisk in the polenta slowly until it’s all incorporated. Turn the heat to simmer and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon periodically until the polenta has absorbed all the liquid and is creamy and soft, about 30 minutes. Stir in Pecorino cheese to taste, reserving the remainder for garnish. (Use reserved stock if mixture becomes too thick.) The truffle oil will be drizzled over the dish upon plating.
For the mushroom ragu, heat the olive oil in a sauté pan, add the shallots, stir until translucent and then add the garlic until it releases its aroma. At this point if you’d like you can add the optional butter and when it’s melted, begin to add the fresh mushrooms. Toss to coat them in the butter, shallot, and garlic mixture. Continue to sauté until they have released their juices and have begun to caramelize, about 10 minutes. (It is best to sauté mushrooms in smaller batches if you don’t have a fairly large sauté pan so they will more easily caramelize.) When the mixture is dry, add the wine, oregano, thyme, dehydrated mushrooms and the reserved mushroom ‘stock’ (strained through a fine sieve) and cook, stirring gently, for another 10 minutes or so, loosening any bits from the bottom of the pan in the process. When the mixture has reached the consistency you desire, transfer to a metal bowl and season with sea salt and pepper. Add the lemon juice and stir gently to combine.
Divide the warm polenta between 4 bowls and top with the mushroom mixture. Drizzle with truffle oil. Garnish with chopped parsley and remaining pecorino. Enjoy!
In Your Glass
The predominance of the rich, wild mushrooms in this entrée sets the stage for wines with a lot of personality. Doug and I might think first of a bottle of Shafer Relentless, which definitely has that quality and a wonderful flavor profile that stands well alongside this dish. Another option, of course, with its peppery and rustic charm, would be a wine from France’s Cote Rotie region. Either would be a delight with this dish on a cool, wintery evening with a roaring fire in the fireplace!