Welcome to week two on the Sasquatch Books blog. Mushroom Ragù We had a few technical difficulties with the Comments function, but it’s up and running now, so please join the conversation. We look forward to hearing from you!
I wanted to write today about Julie & Julia. OK, not really about the movie nor about the book, Mushroom Ragù but about the discoveries that can be made within a wave of interest like the one that’s lifted Julie & Julia and the related books to the bestseller lists.
How cool is it to see Julia Child and her accomplishments so celebrated that Meryl Streep plays her in a top-flight Hollywood movie and people are racing to bookstores to pick up her classic tome Mastering the Art of French Cooking? (Also, don’t miss Julia’s fabulous memoir, My Life in France, on which much of the movie is based. Both of these books I devoured over the course of a great vacation some years ago.)
Here at Sasquatch, we have just one or two degrees of separation from the amazing Miss Julia via a terrific cookbook we published last fall, Cooking Mushroom Ragù with Les Dames d’Escoffier: At Home with the Women Who Shape the Way, We Eat and Drink edited by Marcella Rosene with Pat Mozersky.
Featuring an unpublished recipe from Julia Child, Cooking with Les Dames d’Escoffier is a treasure trove of 125 recipes, kitchen wisdom. And culinary talent from the many talented women inspired by Julia Child to make cooking their life’s work.
In the early ’70s, the irrepressible Carol Brock, then Sunday food editor at The New York Daily News spearheaded the formation of Les Dames d’Escoffier. The feminine counterpart to Les Amis d’Escoffier, an all-male organization of eminent chefs.
Today Les Dames d’Escoffier boasts 26 chapters across the U.S. and Canada, and includes such legendary names like Alice Waters, Dorie Greenspan, Marcella Hazan, Lidia Bastianich, and many of today’s newest culinary stars.
This is one of my favorite cookbooks because reading it really is like having your kitchen full of these legendary cooks. Sipping a little wine with you as you prepare another beautiful home-cooked meal.
I imagine inviting Julia herself along with M. F. K. Fisher, Joyce Goldstein, Anne Willan, and many others into my kitchen as I make dinner.
And you can too! Why not let Alice Waters share with you how to make her divine Mushroom Ragù for Noodles (a personal favorite of mine). Like the best of recipes, it is simple, precise, and the resulting dish will melt in your mouth.
Mushroom Ragù for Noodles
This is not your typical pasta dish. Rather, it is an aromatic combination of minced vegetables and mushrooms simmered in just a bit of olive oil and cream, then spooned over buttered noodles.
Simple to prepare yet highly flavorful, the dish is typical of those that have made its author, Alice Waters, a culinary icon of our times.
Prepare Ahead: The ragù can be made 1 or 2 days ahead, then briefly reheated to top the freshly cooked noodles.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil plus additional for sautéing
- 1/2 large onion, peeled and finely diced (about 1 cup)
- 1 carrot, peeled and finely diced (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 stalk celery, finely diced (about 2/3 cup)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 sprigs thyme, leaves picked from stems
- 3 sprigs parsley, leaves only, chopped
- 1 small bay leaf
- 1/4 cup fresh tomato, finely diced
- 1 pound fresh mushrooms (choose a mixture of two or three types: chanterelles, black trumpets, hedgehogs, cultivated brown or white)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus additional for sautéing
- 1/4 cup heavy cream or crème fraîche
- 1/2 cup water or chicken broth (if not vegetarian)
- 8 ounces wide egg noodles (the first choice is homemade fresh pappardelle, the classic accompaniment to such a ragù)
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- Freshly chopped parsley
Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and salt. Cook until very tender, but regulate heat to allow little or no browning. Add the thyme, parsley, and bay leaf. Cook for 1 minute and add tomatoes. Cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and reserve.
Carefully clean and slice the mushrooms, keeping each type separate. If they are very dirty, Mushroom Ragù it will be necessary to wash them (crunching down on dirt and sand is very unpleasant).
The mushrooms may take on some water, but it will be thrown off shortly after they hit the hot pan. Heat enough olive oil and butter to lightly coat a small skillet large enough to hold each batch of mushrooms. Sauté each type of mushroom separately.
As they cook, the mushrooms will give off liquid; let the juices boil away or tip off the juices and set them aside (the reserved juices can be added back to the Mushroom Ragù sauce later in place of some of the water or broth). Continue cooking the mushrooms until tender and lightly browned (you may need to add a little more oil or butter).
Turn each batch of cooked mushrooms onto a cutting board, chop to the size of the cooked vegetables, and combine with the reserved vegetables and herbs in the larger skillet. Repeat this process for all the mushrooms. Then add the cream and water (here you can substitute reserved mushroom juices for any part of the liquid).
Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Taste for salt and add as needed. Moisten with more liquid if desired, though the ragù is not intended to be soupy. Remove from the heat and reserve.
When ready to serve, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook Mushroom Ragù until barely tender. While the noodles cook, gently reheat the ragù.
When the noodles are done cooking, drain, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water. Return the Mushroom Ragù noodles to the pot and toss with the butter and cheese and enough of the cooking water to keep the noodles separate and well-coated.
Spoon the noodles onto a warm serving platter or 4 individual plates. Top generously with the ragù and a sprinkle of parsley Mushroom Ragù. Serve immediately.