Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mushroom Ragu from Stephanie Izard, Top Chef

Chicago's Stephanie Izard was the winner of the 4th Season of Top Chef.  She was the first woman to win, and thus far, the only one.  During the course of the show she won 4 Quick Fire challenges and finished at the top of elimination challenges 10 times!  She also has the distinction of having won the $10,000 Fan favorite prize when she competed on the Top Chef reunion special.  Of course, it hasn’t been all lollipops and roses for Stephanie.  She had to close her first Chicago restaurant, Scylla because of what were described as “overwhelming financial difficulties”.  But she has dusted herself off and last July opened a small plates and charcuterie restaurant called “Girl and the Goat” (809 West Randolph Street, Chicago, Tel: 312.492.6262 .)  The restaurant has the distinction of being called "America's Best New Restaurant" in the March issue of Saveur Magazine.   The name was given to the place because “Izard” is the name of a breed of goat raised in the Pyrenees, where the Izard Family, late of Stamford CT., has its roots.
When I saw a profile of Stephanie in January’s Food and Wine, I was anxious to try one of her recipes.  The one I focused on was her recipe for Mushroom Ragu.  And I was glad I did.  This is one of those dishes that you can make in a big batch and then eat in various ways for quite a few meals. It’s a wonderful side dish, which is how I first used it, with a simple grilled paillard of chicken.  It’s also a great vegetarian pasta sauce hif you replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock at the outset.  Then reheat and toss with pappardelle and some parmigiano.   Or incorporate a cup of it into a pound of sweet Italian sausage for a heartier weeknight dinner that’s quick and easy.   The ingredients are all reasonably easy to find.  Harissa and White Miso were both found at Fairway.  And for god’s sake use the low fat version of Coconut Milk – it’s every bit as delicious and really cuts down on the calorie count.  Here’s the recipe with thanks to Stephanie and Food and Wine.
Recipe for 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

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

Be sure to add capers and raisins
for a big flavor boost
1 tablespoon harissa

2 teaspoons white or blond miso

1 tablespoon golden raisins (optional)

1 tablespoon capers

1/2 cup chicken stock

1.   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.

2.   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.

3.   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.