Mushrooms are such a special ingredient. We use it in many recipes prepared at the Vine Cliff kitchen managed by Chef Tom Stafford.
Chef Tom loves them because ‘they bring so much complexity to dishes because of their earthiness, woodiness, and their unique umami flavors. Vegetarians love them also because they “beef” up meals with their richness. Dried Mushrooms are super concentrated in flavor, and when they are hydrated you have an instant mushroom stock that can be the base for great soups, risottos, and also sauces. We are lucky enough be in Northern California, giving us great access to chanterelles, morels, trumpets, and oyster mushrooms just harvested no more than 15 miles away.’
‘I take all of those mushrooms, clean them, and pan roast them in a smoking hot cast iron skillet, throw some fresh herbs, butter, and a splash of white wine in the pan when they are nice and caramelized, and that gives me the foundation for a lot of my favorite mushroom dishes.’
Here is a Mushroom Bolognese recipe from the Vine Cliff kitchen that we served recently at the St. Helena Tasting Room.
1. Bolognese sauce
• 2 tablespoons peanut oil
• 1 onion, peeled and diced
• 1 carrot, peeled and diced
• 1 stalk celery, peeled and diced
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
• 12 ounces mixed wild and cultivated mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed, and diced
• 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
• 1 cup of sundried tomatoes (chopped)
• 1 quart vegetable stock
2. For the polenta
• Kosher salt
• 1 cup polenta (coarse yellow cornmeal)
• 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
• 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1. To prepare the Bolognese sauce: Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until it moves easily across the pan. Add the onion, carrot, celery, salt, and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cook for 1 minute, then add the mushrooms and thyme leaves. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms are almost tender, about 3 minutes. Add the sundried tomatoes, cook about 2 minutes more, then add the stock, 2 tablespoons at a time, bringing the pan to a simmer before each addition. Simmer the Bolognese until it is concentrated but not yet dry, about 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.
2. To make the polenta: Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Add a pinch of salt and gradually whisk in the polenta. Stirring constantly, bring the polenta to a boil, then adjust the heat to low. Cook the polenta, stirring occasionally, until it is no longer grainy, about 30 minutes. Whisk the oil and salt to taste into the polenta and remove it from the heat. Cool down to where the polenta solidifies. When cooled, cut into rectangles.
3. Assemble the gratin: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the polenta into a medium baking dish and top each piece with parmesan cheese. Bake the gratin until the top is golden, about 40 minutes. Just before serving, warm the reserved sauce over low heat. Divide the polenta gratins onto plates and spoon the sauce over the top of the gratins, and serve.