Come Friday evening, most of us are wiped, want little to do with the kitchen and opt for ordering in or going out to eat. But at some point in my young children's lives, Friday night at Kitchen 511 became "friends" night (i.e., our kids invite friends over, and I cook for a gaggle of girls and boys). Stephan and I enjoy spending time with and getting to know our kids' friends, our kids appreciate that we welcome their friends for dinner, and, it seems, their friends appreciate it, too. Since the boys have left home, the gatherings have gotten smaller, and sometimes it's just the two of us. (Suffice it to say we're not exactly psyched about the impending empty-nest thing.) Even so, I now prefer cooking at home to going out to a crowded restaurant on a Friday night. (We actually favor going out on Sundays.) Mushroom-based meals have become my Friday-night food of choice (although the girls would far prefer homemade pizza!). They take little time to prepare, and I almost always have the fresh ingredients in the house (thanks to Nyack's Thursday Farmer's Market). This Mushroom Ragù (from Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food) served over creamy polenta and topped with freshly grated Parmesan is a personal end-of-week favorite.
Makes About 2 Cups
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced fine
- 1 large carrot, peeled and diced fine
- 2 celery stalks, diced fine
- 6 thyme sprigs, leaves picked from the stems
- 6 parsely sprigs, leaves only, chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 cup diced tomatoes
- 2 pounds mushrooms (choose a mixture of two or three types: chanterelles, black trumpets, hedgehogs, brown or white button mushrooms), cleaned and sliced
- 1/2 cup cream (I often use half & half since it's always in the fridge)
- 1 cup water or chicken broth
- 1 cup of polenta (I use de la Estancia Organic Polenta)
- Freshly grated Parmesan
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in large, heavy skillet. Add onion, carrot, celery and salt.
- When cooked through (with no crunch but with little or no browning), add thyme, parsley and bay leaf. Cook for 1 minute.
- Add tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.
- Add the remaining olive oil to the same pan and add mushrooms (cook each type separately). As the mushrooms cook, they will give off liquid; let the juices boil away or tip off the juices and set them aside. Continue cooking the mushrooms until tender and lightly browned (you may need to add a little more oil). The reserved juices can be added back to the sauce later in place of some of the water or broth.
- Turn the cooked mushrooms onto a cutting board and chop to the size of the cooked vegetables. Combine with the vegetable and herbs in large skillet and add cream and broth. (I sometimes add a half cup of red wine, too.)
- Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Taste for salt and add as needed. Moisten with more liquid if too thick.
- While sauce is simmering, follow directions for polenta.
- Serve sauce with polenta and top with Parmesan.