This mushroom ragout is one of the best things I've eaten lately, and that's saying a lot.
I haven't always been a fan of edible fungi. Mushrooms were always way out of bounds for me as a kid, but somewhere in my early 20's I fell in love with their earthy, savory deliciousness. During my vegetarian days, I discovered that mushrooms – especially portobellos – make a fabulously substantial alternative to meat. I recently tried enoki mushrooms in gravy at my favorite sushi restaurant, and found that mushrooms may never cease to surprise and delight me.
Last year I read Michael Pollan's book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, where he explores factory farming, sustainable farming, and in the final third of the book, hunting and gathering. This read sparked my fascination with foraging for local and wild edibles, including elderberries, buckwheat, herbs, and especially mushrooms – chanterelle, morels, porcinis and truffles. (In reality, I haven't had the time for my fantasy foraging hobby, but if anyone's volunteering to take me – I'm in!)
The closest I've come to hunting for my own shrooms, comes at leisurely strolls through the farmers' markets when I happen upon a stall of cultivated and wild mushrooms. Below you can see some of the gorgeous bounty I found recently – wood ears, enokis, shiitakes, and more. Aren't they curiously beautiful?
When I brought home a basket of goodies, I knew I need to make something divine, and this mushroom ragout does not disappoint. If you only have access to store bought mushrooms, don't despair. This dish will still be wonderful with a mixture of cremini, shiitake, and portobellos – or whatever mushrooms you can get your hands on.
I love serving this over lightly herbed and seasoned spaghetti squash, but it also makes a superb filling for omelets and wonderful topping for sourdough toast.
Wild mushroom ragout ingredients
- 1 spaghetti squash (apx. 1 pound)
- 1 1/2 large onions
- 1 celery stalk
- 1 small carrot
- 1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 pounds wild or cultivated mushrooms
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 sprig fresh sage
- 1 small bunch thyme (to make 2 tsp. minced)
- 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
- 2 T. tomato paste
- 1 T. sprouted flour or 1/2 T. arrowroot
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 2 T. butter or more olive oil
- 1/4 bunch fresh parsley
Wild mushroom ragout method
- To prepare the squash: In a shallow, non-reactive baking dish, roast the squash at 375F for 30-45 minutes or until squash is soft when punctured with a fork. When cool enough to handle, cut squash in half longwise. Scoop out seeds and discard. Gently scoop out “spaghetti” flesh and set aside.
- To make the porcini mushroom broth: Roughly chop celery, carrot, and 1⁄2 of one onion. Add these to a saucepan with 3 cups filtered water, a bay leaf, and dried porcini mushrooms. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook for 20 to 30 minutes; strain.
- Clean and slice any large fresh mushrooms, leaving smaller mushrooms whole if desired. Dice the remaining onion and mince the garlic and sage.
- In a large skillet, heat 2 T. of the olive oil over medium high heat. Add minced onion to the hot oil; cook until translucent. Lower the heat to medium, season the onions with a generous pinch of sea salt and a few grinds of black pepper, and continue stirring until caramelized, about 5 minutes. Remove the onion to a small bowl. Return the pan to the heat, add the remaining 2 T. olive oil, and turn the heat to high. Add the mushrooms, stirring well to coat with oil. Keep the heat high and sauté the mushrooms until they brown lightly. If juices accumulate in the pan, pour them off and reserve.
- Mince the garlic and add with thyme, sage, and pepper flakes; stir well. Reduce the heat to medium, add the caramelized onions and the tomato paste, and stir to combine. Cook for another 2 minutes, stirring.
- Sprinkle the flour or arrowroot over the mixture and combine. Ladle in 1 cup of the hot mushroom broth, stirring well as the mixture thickens. Add another cup of hot broth and let the ragout cook for another 5 minutes. If it’s too thin, cook it a bit longer; if too thick, add a bit more broth. Adjust with sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
- Mince parsley. Add spaghetti squash to the skillet along with 2 T. butter and about 1/4 cup parsley; combine well and heat through. Transfer a small amount of spaghetti squash to separate serving dishes (you want to err on the side of more ragout), top generously with mushroom ragout, and serve hot topped with a sprinkle of parsley with sea salt, pepper, and red chili flakes to taste.