One of my favorite reality competition shows is Top Chef. I like to cook and eat, so I find the competitions interesting and try to pick up tips as I watch. One of my favorite contestants was the Season 4 winner, Stephanie Izard, now owner of the Chicago restaurant the Girl and the Goat. One of my favorite recipes to cook at home is her Mixed Mushroom Ragu, published in Food and Wine Magazine. I’ll copy the recipe below, then note that changes I’ve made in my version. Although the recipe notes that you can spoon this sauce over meat or fish, my favorite was to serve it is over pasta. I like to use cavatappi noodles because the twists and turns capture lots of the chunky sauce in every bite. When you read the ingredients, you may have a hard time figuring out what the resulting sauce tastes like. It’s really delicious and not at all as weird as the ingredients suggest it might be. It’s salty and savory with a little bit of sweet, and as Izard promises, it will satisfy meat-eaters as well as vegetarians.
Stephanie Izard’s Mixed Mushroom Ragu
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 pound shiitake mushrooms—stems discarded, caps sliced 1/4 inch thick
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 pound mixed mushrooms such as cremini, sliced 1/8 inch thick, and oyster mushrooms, caps quartered
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup chopped canned tomatoes, drained
- 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon harissa
- 2 teaspoons white or blond miso
- 1 tablespoon golden raisins (optional)
- 1 tablespoon capers
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the shiitake and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until tender and starting to brown, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in the skillet. Add the mixed mushrooms and cook over moderately high heat until any liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms start to brown, 5 minutes. Add the onion and remaining 1 tablespoon of oil; season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the onion is softened, 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cover and cook over low heat, stirring a few times, until fragrant, 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 4 minutes.
- In a bowl, whisk the coconut milk, mustard, harissa and miso. Add to the skillet with the shiitake, raisins, capers and stock. Simmer over low heat, stirring, until thickened, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Amy’s Changes and LessonsStephanie Izard’s Mixed Mushroom Ragu as pictured in Food & Wine Magazine.
When I make this recipe, there are a few changes I sometimes make. They are:
- For vegetarians: Swap vegetable stock for the chicken stock. Now this sauce is vegan! The different stock doesn’t really change the flavors, either.
- Mushroom mix-up: One of the most time-consuming steps is soaking the shiitake mushrooms at the beginning. The shiitakes can also be expensive, and I don’t love the chewy texture. I will often buy all other mixed mushrooms, such as baby bellas, and cook them in Step 2. This basically eliminates Step 1 of the recipe.
- Too many mushrooms! Mushrooms usually come in 12 ounce packs. Two pounds is 32 ounces, which is a little less than three packs. I just use the full 36 ounces. No one has complained yet.
- What is harissa? Harissa was a new ingredient for me the first time I made this recipe, and I couldn’t find any in my local grocery. So after some internet research, I subbed a mixture I made myself that included equal parts chipotle and adobe chili powders, regular chili powder, and powdered garlic. I’ve since located harissa but have to confess I like my homemade concoction even better in this recipe since it’s a tad smoky and slightly less spicy. If I do use real harissa, sometimes I add a bit of smoked paprika to get that smoky flavor back.
Don’t use low-fat coconut milk. I learned this one the hard way and am passing it on to you. It will result in a watery sauce.
- What about miso? It also took me a while to locate miso paste. Until I did, I would buy powdered miso soup and pick the dehydrated tofu and seaweed out of the mix, then use the remaining powder as the miso in this recipe. That worked ok, but I’m really glad I finally got a bottle of miso paste.
I hope you give the recipe a try and enjoy it! This is one of my favorite quick weeknight dinners, especially in the winter (but it’s good any time of year).