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Sally Schneider’s roasted mushrooms, found within her recipe for coq au vin in A New Way to Cook, is one of many that relies on technique—not butter or salt or other enrichments—to build flavor.
It’s a two-step process. First the mushrooms roast in a covered pan with shallots, thyme, garlic, and wine:
After thirty minutes in this steamy environment, the mushrooms shrink, releasing much of their liquid, which, when mixed with the now-seasoned wine, creates a flavorful broth.
This broth then gets poured off and reserved, and the mushrooms return to the oven uncovered at a higher temperature where they roast until their edges brown:
For her coq au vin, Schneider mixes the mushroom broth with chicken stock (and later, port, Madeira, and red wine) to make a braising liquid, but the broth is incredibly tasty on its own, too. When it’s reduced stovetop briefly, its flavors concentrate into a rich, aromatic, umami-filled sauce. This whole roasting and reducing process takes about an hour, but the time is mostly hands off, and the result—a two-for-one, mushrooms plus a sauce—is well worth the wait.
The mushrooms and sauce could be tossed with buttered egg noodles or spooned over garlic-rubbed toasts, but creamy polenta is a particularly good match.
And if you cook the polenta on the stovetop while the mushrooms roast, the timing works out perfectly: Just as the cornmeal softens completely, the mushrooms will emerge with edges caramelized. At this time, too, the reducing mushroom broth will be ready for one final touch: a pad of butter, a modest enrichment that gives the sauce body and silkiness.
Even Schneider, I think, would approve.
For the polenta:
- 1 cup milk, optional
- 1 cup polenta or stone-ground coarse cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
For the roasted mushrooms:
- 1 pound mushrooms, such as a mix of cremini and shiitakes
- few sprigs thyme
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup sherry or dry white wine
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus more to taste
- kosher salt
- freshly cracked pepper