Mushroom Ragu from My Past

Dinner for one: homemade mushroom ragu inspired by a meal from my past.

There used to be this restaurant called Paris Vendome in Dallas’s West Village, back in the early 2000s.  This was back in the days after I’d been to France for the first time and knew I was in love with it, but I hadn’t actually gone to live there yet.  At the end of 2004, after I knew that I’d be going to live in Caen the following February, I used to go out to Paris Vendome by myself and have tasty meals and imagine I was already in France.  I can’t remember if they had escargot (it’s always a big thing for me to find a restaurant that has really good, authentic escargot, and I haven’t found one in LA yet), but what I do remember was this fantastic wild mushroom ragu that I often got for my main course.

I’d completely forgotten about this tasty meal until I was making some mushroom ragu tonight.  Mine doesn’t live up to my memory of what I had at Paris Vendome, but it was still pretty good and relatively easy.  I had previously found a recipe online and had picked up all of the ingredients, but then before I had a chance to make it, I lost the recipe and was too lazy to find it again.  So armed with the ingredients I knew I would need and some general knowledge of cooking, I set about making my own mushroom ragu. While most mushroom ragus would call for cream, this one is slightly healthier in that it uses a roux (a thickener made  with melted butter and flour) to give it its creaminess instead.  Note that I say slightly healthier. 🙂

In case you want to play along at home, here’s the recipe.  Like I said, it’s not as good as what I remember, but I may try this again and do some tweaking.  Even as is, it was pretty tasty, in my humble opinion.  I had it with a Vacqueryas that was nice but turned out being way fruitier than what I would have gone for.  Wish I would have had a nice syrah instead.

Also, here’s a good kitchen tip for you.  Get a nice medium coarseness microplane grater and a block of parmesan for whenever you want parmesan on something.  This is way better than that creepy powdered stuff you get in the little tube, and it really doesn’t take that much longer just to pull out the grater and quickly grade a little of the fresh on whatever you’re eating.  Fresh parmesan lasts practically forever.  I just keep mine in a tupperware container in the fridge and it takes like two seconds to add a nice gourmet touch to your meal.

Mushroom Ragu
(serves about four)

24 ounces mushrooms such as baby bella, portabella, or button, sliced (I used a combo of baby bella and white button)
2 shallots, minced
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbs sage, roughly chopped
5 Tbs salted butter, divided
2 Tbs olive oil
3 Tbs flour
1 cup red wine
1 cup beef or veggie broth (beef broth would be richer, but obviously if you want this to be a vegetarian meal, you could go with the veggie)

  1. Melt half the butter in a large pot over medium high.  Add all the mushrooms and the olive oil and cook for a couple minutes until the mushrooms start to shrink and get softer.  Add the shallots, garlic, and sage, and cook, stirring occasionally.  The mushrooms should start to release some juices and get softer.
  2. In a medium pan, melt the remaining butter over medium heat.  Once the butter has completely melted, whisk in the flour.  You need to move quickly in this next part – you should have already measured out your liquids and be ready to go, or else you could burn your roux.  Whisk in the wine and broth until it’s well incorporated with the roux.
  3. Carefully pour the sauce into the mushroom mixture.  Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  The sauce should thicken and reduce by about half.  Salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Serve over rigatoni and top with fresh grated parmesan cheese.  Pretend you are in Paris, and enjoy.