hey it’s good to be back home again…

Those who know me (and, by this point, maybe also those who read this blog) know how much I love a good figure of speech or turn of phrase. I inherited a whole bunch of my best one liners and witticisms – most of which are unmentionable here- from my Grandpa Gerald. Driving home from Madison late last night, I could hear Grandpa’s voice telling me, “Katlynn, you have wheels on your butt,” his favorite zinger for anyone in the family who was constantly on the road, running around too much and not content to stay home and take it easy. And while I live to travel and spend time with my people scattered across the country, my wanderlust has certainly gotten the best of me lately and it I’ve barely unpacked my suitcase in the last 2 months. Cooking the delicious meal I’m about to tell you about with Joanna with tonight, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief and contentment to be home in Chicago with no trips on the horizon. I think it’s time to take the wheels off for a while.

When home is Chicago and the forecast is “ice storm warning,” the sugar cured girls have no choice but to pull out all the stops on the heartiness front. This mushroom bourguignon recipe is one that Joanna and I turn to again and again when we want something special and filling but relatively low-fuss.  There’s quite a bit of chopping involved (I recommend recruiting a sous chef to make light work of this part) but it comes together quickly and without stress. You’ll probably want a sous chef to help you finish that bottle of wine you opened for the stew too. We’ve served the bourguignon over roasted potatoes or egg noodles in the past but I think we found the perfect base in polenta on this iteration. If you’re as dubious of preparing the polenta in the oven as I was at first, you’ll have to trust me when i say that it works like a charm. This method is so easy that I may never cook polenta on the stovetop again.

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I hope you’ll find an occasion to stay home and try out the recipe in your own kitchen. And if you need a sous chef and you have a couch I can crash on, there’s a girl in Chicago with wheels on her butt that could probably be persuaded to come visit you wherever you are.

Mushroom Bourguignon and Oven Baked Polenta (adapted lovingly from two of our very favorite and most trusted food blogs, Smitten Kitchen and Joy the Baker)

For the bourguignon:

2 T olive oil

1 T butter

2 lbs portobello or cremini mushrooms, washed and cut into 1/4″ slices

1/2 lb carrots, sliced

1 large onion, quartered and sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 c red wine

2 c beef or vegetable broth

2 T tomato paste

1 T fresh thyme leaves (1/2 t dried)

1 1/2 T all-purpose flour

Parsley, to taste

Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat 1 T oil in a large, heavy pan over high heat. Cook the mushrooms until they start to brown but don’t yet start to release their liquid. Remove them from the pan and set aside. Lower the heat to medium and add another 1 T oil to the pan. Toss the onion, carrot, thyme, a few good pinches of salt, and several grinds of black pepper. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the onions start to brown. Add the garlic and cook one more minute. Add the wine, scrape off any vegetable bits that may have stuck to the bottom of the pot, turn the heat all the way up, and cook until the wine is reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Add back the mushrooms along with the broth and tomato paste. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until everything is tender. Mash the flour into the butter to make a paste then stir it into the stew. Cook 10 more minutes at medium heat until the stew is thick enough for your liking. Add parsley just before serving. Serve over polenta (recipe follows)

Oven baked polenta

1 c coarse ground cornmeal

4 c water

1 tsp salt

4 T butter

1/4 t crushed red pepper flakes

Preheat the oven to 350F. In an 8×8 baking dish, mix cornmeal, water, and salt. Place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and add butter, stirring until the butter is melted. Bake for 15 minutes. Stir in red pepper flakes and serve.

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