Polenta with Smoky Mushroom Ragout

The South Arm Cooking Club for Seniors meets again for their forthrightly cooking fun.  I envied these group of seniors who are filled with enthusiasm and making full use of their retirement.  They enjoy cooking, gardening and each others company.

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For this week’s cooking session, Charlene picked four recipes from Cooking Light.  The seniors are very careful with their food intake and they practice healthy eating.  The first recipe is Polenta with Smoky Mushroom Ragout.  To our surprise, this dish turns out to resembles lasagne.

The polenta in this recipe is baked in the oven, as opposed to using the traditional method of stovetop cooking.  This method frees you from constantly stirring the polenta and you can prepare the mushroom topping while the polenta is in the oven.

This recipe serves 8.

Ingredients

Polenta:

  • 6 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups dry polenta
  • 1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Ragout:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 cups sliced oyster mushroom caps (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped drained canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (28 oz) can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup (6 oz) crumbled queso fresco cheese, feta, or goat cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

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Polenta, at its most basic, is boiled cornmeal mush, a cousin of grits.  Popular in northern Italy, it can be served as a starch to be topped with sauces, or as an accompaniment to meats.  Once chilled, it becomes firm and can be sliced and grilled, fried, or layered in casseroles and baked dishes.

Composed primarily of carbohydrates, it is low in fat and a good option for a gluten-free side dish.  Many polenta recipes call for copious amounts of butter and cheese, as polenta by itself is very bland, so exercise good judgement while cooking.

Here in Canada, you can use cornmeal to make polenta.  The smaller the grind, the quicker it cooks.  Traditional Italian polenta is quite coarse, and can take between 20 to 40 minutes of stirring on the stovetop.  Cooking for less time results in grains that are more distinct; the longer cooking time results in a creamier consistency.

You can also make polenta using a microwave which I had blogged before here.

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350F.

polentamushroomragout-23-300x200To prepare the polenta, combine water, polenta, butter and salt in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish, stirring well.  Bake at 350F for 1 hour or until liquid is absorbed.
polentamushroomragout-11-200x300From time to time, stir the polenta to ensure even cooking.  Cover polenta and keep warm.
polentamushroomragout-20-300x200To prepare the mushrooms, remove the end of the stem and wipe off any dirt with a damp towel.
polentamushroomragout-24-300x200To prepare the ragout, while the polenta bakes, heat oil in a large Dutch oven or frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add onion and saute for 5 minutes or until tender.
polentamushroomragout-25-300x200Add mushrooms and salt; cook for 10 minutes or until mushrooms release moisture and begin to brown, stirring occasionally.  Add wine, chiles, oregano, and garlic.  Reduce heat to medium, and cook for 1 minutes or until liquid evaporates, stirring constantly.
polentamushroomragout-26-300x200Stir in tomatoes, and cook over low heat for 15 minutes or until the mixture thickens slightly, stirring occasionally.
polentamushroomragout-27-300x200Spoon ragout over polenta.
polentamushroomragout-28-300x200Sprinkle evenly with cheese.  Bake at 350F for 15 minutes or unitl cheese begins to melt.  Sprinkle with cilantro.

Lorna and Sydney, thank you for making this dish.

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