Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Mushroom Ragu on Crispy Polenta Cakes

Out of deference for the many vegetarians in the house, we did these little bites as a tray pass for the November Silverlake Wine Tasting.  Although Matt used chanterelle mushrooms he found at the farmer's market, really any will work such as the tried and true button mushroom which turns this easy appetizer into an economical one that anyone who likes mushrooms loves. If you're in a rush and you don't want to be bothered with the snazzy polenta cake, go ahead and use some whole grain crackers straight out of the box or thin, toasted baguette slices. Quick, affordable, delicious. Oh and vegetarian.


6 oz ricotta cheese
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 shallot, minced
1 bunch chives, chopped
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
1 lb mushrooms (preferably wild but button is fine), torn into small, bite-sized pieces
1 bunch sage leaves, chopped
2 oz white wine

In a mixing bowl, combine the cheese, lemon juice and zest, shallot, chives, salt and pepper.

Heat a medium saute pan over high flames until it begins to smoke. Coat the bottom of the pan with the oil and then gently add the mushrooms or you will get zapped with hot oil.

Stir the mushrooms to prevent burning and continue to cook until they are crispy and golden brown. Add the chopped sage and cook for an additional 30 seconds. Add the white wine carefully so as not to ignite. Cook 1 minute more and then remove from heat.

Add the hot mushrooms to the ricotta mixture, folding to incorporate. Cover and reserve until you are ready to use.


1 cup instant Italian polenta
2 cups stock or salted water
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated plus more for garnish
1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil

Rub two baking sheets with olive oil and set aside.

In a medium sauce pot, bring the stock or water to a boil, then add polenta and lower heat to a simmer. Whisk until the polenta becomes smooth and thick, approximately 7-8 minutes. Still whisking, turn off the heat and add the Parmesan cheese. 

Pour the polenta onto one of the prepared baking sheets and spread flat with a greased offset spatula. Place in refrigerator to cool.

Preheat oven to 450F

When cool, cut the polenta into desired bite-sized shapes and place on the other greased baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown.

To construct, place a small spoonful of the ragu atop the baked polenta and garnish with additional Parmesan cheese. 

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