Posted by: Part-Time Audiophile | August 14, 2009

Mushroom Ragout on Puff Pastry with Spinach

Day 4 of CT101 at L’Academie. On the menu, a series of dishes showcasing mushrooms & greens. This one was my favorite:

Mushroom Ragout on Puff Pastry with Spinach

Ingredients

  • 2T shallots: finely chopped
  • 1T garlic: finely chopped
  • 1C Shiitake mushrooms: medium dice, stems removed
  • 1C Cremini mushrooms: quartered, stems trimmed
  • 1C oyster mushrooms: large “dice”, stems trimmed
  • 1C button mushrooms: quartered, stems trimmed
  • Sheets of puff pastry, cut into 3″ squares
  • 1/2C Madeira
  • 2tsp dried mushroom powder
  • 1/4C sun dried tomatoes: fine chop
  • 1/4C heavy cream
  • Spinach bunch
  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • Chives
  • Fine herbs (your choice)
  • 1 egg, whipped (egg wash)
  • Optional: bacon/lardons
  • Optional: veal stock

Preparation: Ragout

If you’re using bacon or lardons, start with these. Large “chop” is fine. Sweat in large pan — and by “sweat”, I mean low heat as you’re not looking for color (but that’s fine), just reducing their moisture content. You’re not going to need any fat in the pan at this point. When the bacon has released “enough” fat, you can add the garlic and onions. I’m guessing that this’ll take about 5 minutes. Remove and reserve.

Turn up the heat, say, medium high. Add olive oil. You don’t want the oil to burn, so add the oil to the already heated pan. When it starts to smoke, add ‘shrooms. Pan should sizzle! Add big pinch of salt, toss to mix & coat, then saute for color. That is, let them sit for several moments, then sti … then sit … then stir … until they’re nicely browned.

Note: my “other” chef instructor like to dry saute his shrooms. That is, no fat in the pan. This is kinda cool — as the dry shrooms bounce around in there, the squeak and squeal. However, this instructor thinks that this unnecessarily dries the mushrooms out, so he always cooks his shrooms in fat. I’ve done this both ways, and cooking in shrooms in fat does lend to better coloring, but if you’re counting calories (LOL), then skipping the fat here is an option.

Add about a teaspoon (or more) of olive oil to the pan as necessary, and add the shallots, garlic & tomatoes. Keep the heat up, but keep an eye on those shallots & garlic as they’ll tend to go from “okay” to “burnt” pretty quickly.

As the onions begin to color, add wine to “deglaze”. The recipe we were following recommended Madeira, but dry white wine or brandy would also work very well. Scrape up anything on the bottom of the pan (assuming nothing is burnt). Bring back the bacon, if using, add your chopped fresh herbs — parsley & thyme are nice, but marjoram and/or basil would probably work too. At a guess, I’d say, maybe, 2T of chopped herbs would be nice at this point. Add mushroom powder.

Note: mushroom powder is another interesting use for dried mushrooms that you can get at the store in little pouches. Many moons ago, I posted a rant about these things — how the texture never comes back when they’re reconstituted, how they kinda suck, and how they’re only good if the end product is a puree. Well, I’m changing my stance. Now, these little bags are going into the grinder. Blitzing the crap out of them renders a really fine powder that you can use to pop the hell out any mushroom dish, or any old dish you want to add some shroomy depth to. Since they’re dried, grinding them is a snap. Storing them is likewise a snap — but do keep them in a cool, dry, dark place. Remember that ground anything looses its pungency faster than whole anything, so to maximize your investment, you might want to consider freezing the ground powder until use. Just a thought.

Cook the wine au sec, which means pretty much cook the wine off. You’re ready for the cream when the pan no longer has a punchy wine aroma and/or the wine is all but gone.

Turn heat down to low.

If you’re using veal stock, this’d be a good time to throw some in. I’d say add a couple of ounces, or 1-2 ice cubes worth of the stuff if you made your own. Don’t add too much as you’ll want to reduce it to near-dry, that is, a bit wetter than au sec.

Add cream, stir, simmer till thickened. Cover, set aside until necessary — refrigerate as needed.

Preparation: Pastry shell

At this point, it’s probably time to start fussing with the pastry. Preheat oven to 400.

Puff pastry, or just “puff” as you’ll hear cooks and foodies talk about it, is pretty awesome stuff. Essentially, it’s layered dough, with flour and water sandwiched between butter. Good puff has oodles of layers, so when it’s heated to a decent temp (400 is a good rule of thumb), the water in the dough and butter starts to evaporate, causing the dough to lift quite rapidly, creating a matrix of flaky goodness. You can buy puff pre-made, and I recommend you do so and just keep some in the freezer till you need it.

What you want is a sheet or two, depending on how many of these squares you’re going to do — but that’s what you want, squares. I’m suggesting 3″, but there’s no reason you can’t go bigger or smaller, depending on how much you want to emphasize the puff in the final dish. Cut them, lay them on parchment paper, then stick ’em back in the fridge to firm up.

Note: be aware that puff is dough. It’s a pretty wet dough, so it’ll stick like crazy to just about everything. Hence, we want it kept cold. Do not pull puff out of the fridge until you’re ready to play with it!

To prep the squares, you’re going to make two interesting cuts. The goal is create a puff cup that the ragout is going to sit in, so we need to create a lip around an indented center. To get this, you can make cut-outs in the puff and fold them over. It’s a bit hard to explain, but what you want to do is this:

With your very cold puff, find a corner. You’re going to start at that corner, about 1/5th of the way toward the center, so very close to the corner. Very carefully, begin to cut through the puff in a line parallel to the edge of the square as if you were cutting a second, smaller square out of the center of your puff. Take that cut about 4/5ths of the way to the next corner. Go back to the start of that cut, right at that first corner, and make the same cut along the other edge, again stopping about 4/5ths of the way along that edge. What you should have at this point is a “flap” of puff that is unattached except at the two corners. Repeat this for the opposite corner so that you have two flaps.

Once cut, brush the entire surface with egg wash. Be careful here — you do not want to glue the puff to the parchment or it won’t rise, so keep all the wash to the surface exclusively.

Then, very carefully, fold one flap over till it’s corner lies flat and flush with the interior corner you just cut. Repeat with the other flap.

What you should have is a square-ish shape with loops on two ends, but essentially it’s a cup shape of cold puff. Brush with egg wash again, and again, taking care not to glue the puff to the parchment.

Pop into oven and bake until it not only rises, but turns a rich, dark golden color. If your a Thermapen addict, you’re looking for 210-plus.

Remove from oven. You should have a cup with a nice raised edge. With a sharp paring knife, gently cut through the top layer of the golden crust that forms the base of your little bowl and pull that off and set aside. You’re going to put your goodies in your bowl and use this as a lid!

Preparation: Spinach

Wash your spinach thoroughly — get all that sand and grit out of there. In a hot pan with some liquid — water or stock is fine. Big pinch of salt. Manipulate with tongs to keep the spinach as close to the heat as possible, and wilt the spinach. Remove from heat and pour off any liquid.

A good idea to warm the ragout while this is going on — finish it with 1T of butter, whisked into the sauce.

Assembly

Puff on plate, add spinach to cup, top whole with ragout, add some chopped chives. Serve.

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