Make Ahead

Mushroom Ragù

October 19, 2010
4 Ratings
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

Last year, I stumbled on an interesting and useful reference book (with recipes) called, “How to Pick a Peach,” by Russ Parsons. In the headnote to one of the recipes, Parsons mentions that the French chef, Michel Richard, often adds a pinch of curry powder as a seasoning for mushrooms. As Parsons notes, the curry powder adds a certain complexity to the mushrooms. It’s a great idea which I've used a lot since reading about it. This recipe is a new and improved version of a mushroom ragù I’ve been making for as long as I can remember. I recommend that you use a tiny pinch of "Escoffier's Spices", the recipe for which I've posted here on food52. Or, you can use a "white curry" blend, included below, which is simply a curry powder without the turmeric (as I prefer not to have its bright yellow color in this dish). We like this over polenta (as shown in the photo), or atop pork chops that have been marinated in red wine and herbs before grilling. I use this as the basis for a similar dish in which I braise chicken, and in and on a simple meatloaf (turning some of the ragù into a savory mushroom ketchup). We also like this as a main dish stew, created by adding zucchini and Italian sausage. I've posted several of those recipes here on the food52 site. In the instructions below, I include tips for making this vegetarian. Enjoy!! ;o) —AntoniaJames

What You'll Need
  • The Ragù
  • 12 ounces mushrooms (4 cups chopped)(I use a combination of shitakes, buttons and chanterelles, when I can get them).
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 cup red wine, divided (I use a Burgundy or Cotes du Rhone for this.)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 medium shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of bacon fat, or butter or oil, or a combination
  • Salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon "Escoffier's Spices" (posted here on food52), or "white curry" spice mix (recipe follows).
  • 2 ounces of Black Forest ham or 1 ounce of prosciutto, finely chopped
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes in juice (canned is fine)
  • ¼ teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • ½ cup chicken or pork stock, or more if necessary
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • The "White Curry" Spice Mix
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom seeds
  • 1/2 of a small cinnamon stick
  • 2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  1. The Ragù
  2. Heat a large non-stick skillet until fairly hot, then add the olive oil and swirl it around quickly. Add the mushrooms, stir a few times, then turn the heat down to medium low. Stir for another minute or so, then leave them alone for another three or four minutes, stirring briefly only once or twice, briefly. Turn the heat back up to medium and cook for another minute, stirring constantly.
  3. Put the mushrooms in a bowl and, with the pan still hot, deglaze it with 2 tablespoons of the red wine. Pour the wine and pan juices into the bowl with the mushrooms.
  4. Rinse and lightly wipe dry the pan. Return it to the stove and get it hot over a medium heat. Add the bacon fat, butter or oil, and the onions and shallots; stir well to coat them. Continue stirring while the onions cook for about a minute, then turn down the heat to medium low and let the onions cook for about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. When the onions are a fairly uniform golden brown, add the spice blend and the chopped ham or prosciutto and stir well, cooking for another minute.
  6. Add the mushrooms and their liquid, and stir to combine, continuing to cook over medium heat. Then add the tomatoes, the herbs and the rest of the wine. Stir well, and then lower the heat.
  7. Simmer gently for ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add the chicken stock, and scrape down the sides of the skillet, blending everything together well. Cook for another two or three minutes, or until the sauce is reduced to your liking. Taste for seasoning and correct.
  8. Just before serving, add the chopped parsley and freshly ground pepper.
  9. Enjoy!!
  10. This holds very well for a couple of days, tightly covered in the fridge. In fact, it’s better if it’s had a chance to sit for at least a few hours before eating.
  11. Also, here’s an idea about serving it with polenta. If you have a rich chicken stock, made using a ham bone or a slice of ham or prosciutto which you’ve roasted with the chicken pieces or bones (if you roast before making your stock) or included in the stock itself while cooking, use it to make the polenta. It’s the best way to make polenta taste great without adding a lot of butter, cream and cheese. I usually add a tablespoon or two of grated pecorino romano anyway though, even when using the rich stock, to round out the flavor.
  12. To make this vegetarian, omit the ham, but add a bay leaf and ¼ cup of celery, finely chopped, a minute or two after adding the onions. And use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock. If you are serving both carnivores and vegetarians, add a bay leaf when you add the mushrooms back to the skillet. Then, take some of the ragù out for the vegetarian (or vice versa) right before adding the chicken stock; then add the ham with the stock to the carnivore’s pot. Add some vegetable stock and simmer with the finely chopped celery.
  1. The "White Curry" Spice Mix
  2. Toast the cumin, coriander and cardamom lightly in a small skillet just until fragrant, shaking the pan frequently. The minute they seem to be turning a darker color, remove all of the seeds right away, lest they burn.
  3. Break the cinnamon stick into about five or six pieces. Very lightly toast it in the skillet, shaking the pan frequently, for no more than a minute or so on medium heat.
  4. Grind the toasted seeds, the cinnamon stick, the mustard seeds, the cloves and the pepper to a fine powder. (Check the grinder once or twice to dislodge any cinnamon pieces that may have stuck to the blade.)
  5. Sift through a fine sieve. Store in a jar and use within a few weeks.
  6. Enjoy!! ;o)
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  • drbabs
  • SallyCan
  • AntoniaJames
  • friendlyoaks

Recipe by: AntoniaJames

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5 Reviews

drbabs April 14, 2011
Sounds amazing.
AntoniaJames April 19, 2011
Thank you, Dr B! (Can you see I'm catching up with about a week's worth of non-business email?!) ;o)
SallyCan October 19, 2010
This looks great, with interesting spices for mushrooms. It will be a nice change to the usual mushrooms w/ Marsala/Maderia...perhaps to go along w/ eggplant...though I think I might run the tomatoes through a sieve...(Mom would like it your way though!)...will it still be a ragu then? The companion chicken and meatloaf recipes are nice too.
friendlyoaks October 19, 2010
Your ragu sounds fabulous - I particularly like the idea of adding "white" curry. You must have had a great time working on this and all the ways to use it. Thanks! I'm not vegetarian but do a lot of meatless cooking - so when I make this I will probably add mushroom stock or bean stock out of my freezer.
AntoniaJames October 19, 2010
Thanks so much! Great idea about using mushroom stock. I don't typically make mushroom stock but now it's obvious that I should do so. And yes, I have had great fun experimenting with this. There are more recipes, not involving this ragu, to come! Incidentally, when I serve this ragu over polenta, I make sure that there is a fair bit of liquid in the sauce (even adding more stock and wine, toward the end, to achieve that), so that there are plenty of juices to run down and into the polenta, as shown in my photo. I hope you try this, and like it! ;o)