Monday, August 28, 2006

Comfort, Party of 1

It's been a long day and a long week. My head's kind of spinning out of control lately, so much so that I eschewed any plans to go out Friday night. I just wanted to go home, be cozy, and crawl in bed. But first I had to eat dinner. I had had a meaty lunch (Fridays are barbecue days), so I was leaning towards going vegetarian for the night. But I wanted something substantial, something in the comfort food vein.

I ended up going with polenta, which is basically a gastronomical bear hug, with a red wine mushroom ragout. It hit the spot precisely -- it was soft and smooshy, with strong flavors, and deceptively hearty for a meal with no meat. Poured myself a glass of wine, threw The Last Kiss into the DVD player (the original Italian one, not the upcoming Zack Braff remake), and enjoyed a cozy night in.

Polenta with Red Wine Mushroom Ragout

1 cup corn grits/polenta
1/2 Tbs salt

1 Tbs olive oil
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed and finely minced
1 cup of your favorite mushrooms, roughly chopped (I used cremini and oyster)
1/2 cup tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp dried thyme
splash red wine
2 pats butter
salt and pepper, to taste

Get the polenta started: bring 2 cups water to a boil with the salt in a medium pot. Slowly add corn grits, stirring as you add. Lower heat, simmer uncovered at least 20 minutes, stirring frequently. If, as the polenta is cooking, it gets too dry, just add a bit more water. Once it's done cooking, stir in a pat of butter.

Meanwhile, make the ragout. To a medium saucepan over medium heat, add olive oil and shallot. Stir to spread the oil across the pan. After about 2 minutes, add the garlic. After another minute or two, add the mushrooms. Once they have browned slightly (about 5-8 minutes), add the tomatoes and thyme. If necessary, add more olive oil. Stir. Once the tomatoes have softened slightly, pour in some red wine and the remaining butter. Stir, and leave on heat until liquid has thickened slightly to a thin saucy consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve ragout over polenta.

Notes: It's a good idea to pour yourself a glass of wine to drink while preparing this meal. Really, why wait? The amount of polenta here gives enough to have leftovers to fry in butter for the next morning's breakfast. The ragout gives no leftovers. I used cherry tomatoes, because I had them on hand, but better tomatoes make a better tasting ragout. If you're making this for the queen, I would peel the tomatoes. If the tomatoes leave a little to be desired, sprinkle them with a pinch of sugar. Note that I am pretty stingy with olive oil and butter here. For a richer dish, feel free to add more of each or both.


  1. Ok, I really have to learn not to read your blog when I'm hungry. It's dangerous.

  2. Well done with the shout out to The Last Kiss. The other one. The REAL one. Let the ignorant know! I mean...not that it was that great, but still, America did not invent the romance!!! Or hot Italian men!!!