Yesterday, on my way home from the pool, I saw some workers putting up Christmas lights around the city center.
They sure don’t waste any time around here.
Due to the lack of Thanksgiving in Japan, they go from Halloween decorations on the 31st to Christmas decorations (and music) on Nov. 1st.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m as excited about Christmas as anyone, but seeing Christmas decorations the day after Halloween is a bit of a shock to the system, you know? I need time to process the end of Halloween (and kids need time to recover from their candy coma). Christmas lights does not help this process.
In another two weeks or so I’m sure I’ll be ready for them, but for now I’ll just avert my eyes.
As we’re moving out in less than two weeks (Eek!), I’ve been trying to use up things in the pantry. I currently have an excessive amount of cornmeal, so I’ve been trying to get creative, and make things other than corn bread (like cornmeal pancakes!).
I found this recipe last week, and thought it would be something fun and different to try out (and use up cornmeal!). It turned out really well! It’s a vegetarian dish, but very hearty and filling.
It’s a mushroom ragout (pronounced [ra-goo]; a French stew of meat and vegetables, or in this case, just vegetables) and a homemade polenta that are layered lasagna style with cheese and baked to become a delicious casserole.
Or to simplify, let me just say, it’s yummy. Make it.
Recipe adapted from The Perfect Pantry.
Polenta and Mushroom Ragout
(serves 5 – 6)
- 1 onion, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp dried rosemary, crumbled or diced
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 4 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 lb mixed mushrooms, sliced (use whatever kinds you want)
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1 1/2 c. beef broth
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 6 cups water
- 2 c. cornmeal
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1/4 c. Italian flat-leaf parsley (dry or fresh), diced (if fresh)
- 1 1/2 c. Parmesan cheese
- 2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
- Pre-heat oven to 400° F (200° C). Spray or butter a casserole dish and set aside.
- In a large skillet, heat 3 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, rosemary, and thyme, and cook until onion tender, about 5 – 6 minutes.
- Add garlic and mushrooms, and turn up heat to medium-high. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the liquid from the mushrooms has cooked off, about 10 minutes.
- Add tomato paste and wine, and cook until liquid reduces and sauce thickens, about 5 minutes.
- In a small bowl, add the corn starch to the beef broth and mix. Add to the mushroom mixture along with the Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a boil, stirring, and then reduce to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 3 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste, turn off heat, and set aside.
- Add 6 c. water and 1 Tbsp. olive oil to a large pot, and bring to a boil.
- Add 1 c. cornmeal to water, whisking constantly.
- Reduce heat to a simmer, and add remaining 1 c. cornmeal in a steady stream, whisking constantly.
- Bring to a boil again, and cook for about 1 minutes, stirring constantly. Turn off heat, and remove from burner.
- Add butter, 1 c. Parmesan cheese, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste to the polenta and mix well.
- Add 1/3 of the polenta to the casserole dish, and spread it into an even layer. Sprinkle some of the Parmesan and shredded mozzarella cheese on top of the polenta. Add 1/2 of the ragu on top of the cheese and polenta, and spread into an even layer. Continue with 1/3 of the polenta, cheese, the remaining 1/2 of the ragu, the last 1/3 or the polenta, and the remaining cheese on top.
- Bake, uncovered, for about 30 – 35 minutes, or until the polenta is golden and crispy (tip: place casserole dish on a baking sheet while in the oven in case the dish bubbles over).