Creamy Mascarpone Polenta w/ Mushroom Ragu

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Creamy Mascarpone Polenta w/ Mushroom Ragu

Oh, my goodness! It’s actually cold here in Los Angeles.  For the first time, I can honestly say that it feels a bit like I’m in Atlanta or dare I say, New Jersey.  Interestingly, when I told my mom how cold it was here, she gleefully stated, “Well, it looks like you gave us all of your heat.”  Okay, so it’s opposites day!  Well, the only way to combat such a cold streak is to make cozy, comfort food.

This Mascarpone Polenta with Mushroom Ragu is rustic, creamy, and classic.  A perfect meal to warm you up from the chilly air. This is a quick meal involving cremini mushrooms, mascarpone (oh joy) and cornmeal.  Most recipes combine a mix of dried and fresh mushrooms and incorporate a variety of mushrooms, such as chanterelles, porcini, shitakes.  For this recipe, I used one type of mushroom as this is what I hand on hand. Also, depending on where you live, your store may have shitake’s, but not chanterelle’s.  If you’re like me and set on having the exact ingredients for a dish, save yourself the frustration and stick to one type of mushroom.  If you nail it, and find all the mushrooms, go for it.  You’ll be pleased with the result as each mushroom imparts its on flavor and texture.  It will be a treat.

Lastly, there is much debate about whether to use polenta or cornmeal to make this dish.  Well, polenta is the dish, not the ingredient. So, you can definitely use cornmeal that you see at your local grocery store.  However, you can purchase cornmeal that is labeled “polenta,” such as this and this brand if you want to be authentic.

Enjoy!

 

polenta

4 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup mascarpone cheese
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
Fresh ground black pepper

mushroom ragu
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup finely chopped shallots
1-1   ½ pounds crimini mushrooms or a mix of mushrooms (cremini, oyster, shitake)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig rosemary
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 cup red wine
2 cups vegetable stock
Fresh ground black pepper
Kosher salt to taste

Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan.  Add the salt.  Whisking constantly, add the cornmeal in a very thin, steady stream.  Stir until thickened.  Remove from the heat.  Add the mascarpone, parmesan cheese and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately.

For the mushroom ragu, heat the oil in a large skillet to medium-low.  Add the shallots and cook until wilted.  Raise the heat to high, add the mushrooms, thyme and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper.  Cook until mushrooms are tender, and liquid has evaporated.  Add the tomato paste and stir for a minute.  Add the red wine and stir until the wine evaporates.  Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and continue to cook until the sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

To assemble, put the polenta into individual bowls and generously top with the mushroom ragu.  Serve with additional parmesan cheese.

Chocolate Matcha Tea Ice Cream Sandwiches

This post is sponsored by DōMatcha®

Nothing says summer like ice cream, or my favorite, ice cream sandwiches.  It doesn’t have to be summer for me to enjoy a great ice cream sandwich.  These chocolaty and chewy sandwich cookies are filled with bittersweet Matcha green tea ice cream.  Although I drink matcha daily, incorporating it in desserts and other recipes, is a treat within itself.

I made this ice cream without an ice cream maker, and frankly, I prefer it this way.  It’s quick and simple and doesn’t require the process of freezing your ice cream machine canister a couple of days ahead.  Just mix your ingredients, place in a loaf pan or container of your choice (just make sure it’s shallow), and voila, 6 hours later you’ve got creamy ice cream to wow your family and guests.  With this method, green tea ice cream is just the beginning.  Try other flavor combinations or just go with simple vanilla, which is my son's absolute favorite.  But, lo and behold, after making the green tea ice cream, I almost thought I wouldn't have enough for my sandwiches.  The kiddos loved it!  We all kept taking spoonful after spoonful.   It's just that tasty.  

The cookie sandwich recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit’s latest magazine issue, “Cook Like a Pro.”  I used their Oatmeal Cookie sandwich and Chocolate Cookie Sandwich recipe interchangeably as I preferred a round cookie instead of the rectangular version. 

A few tips to keep mind, although the ice cream requires 6 hours until firm and ready to eat, preparing the ice cream sandwiches will require a 1-2-day prep time.  You can make the dough 2 days ahead and the cookies can be baked 1-week ahead if you’re in no rush. The ice cream sandwiches can be assembled a week ahead also.  Make sure they’re frozen.

Enjoy!

Chocolate Matcha Ice Cream Sandwiches

No-Churn Matcha Green Tea Ice Cream//serves 4
Adapted from Japan Centre

matcha green tea ice cream
3 egg yolks
½ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons DōMatcha® Tea Powder
¾ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy whipping cream

Chocolate Cookie Sandwiches//makes about 12
Adapted from Bon Appetit

chocolate cookie sandwiches
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the ice cream, in a bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the granulated sugar until thick and pale. Add the matcha powder and stir until a thick green paste forms.  Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, gently heat the milk to a low simmer.  Remove from the heat and add the vanilla extract.  Gradually add the milk to the matcha green tea paste whisking until well incorporated.   Pour mixture through a fine sieve into a medium bowl and set in an ice bath; let stand, stirring occasionally until well chilled.

In a mixing bowl, beat the heavy cream until soft peaks form.  If you are using an electric stand mixer, beat the cream on medium speed.  Fold the cream into the chilled matcha green tea mixture.  Pour the mixture into a loaf pan, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze until firm, 6 hours. Serve promptly.

For the chocolate cookie sandwiches, whisk cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and 2½ cups flour in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to medium and add eggs and vanilla; beat until very fluffy, about 30 seconds. Reduce speed to low and gradually add dry ingredients, beating just until combined (use a large spatula to incorporate any dry ingredients at the bottom of the bowl). Divide dough in half and wrap each in plastic, pressing down to form into ½”-thick disks. Chill until firm, at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350°. Let 1 disk of dough sit at room temperature until softened slightly, about 5 minutes. Roll out on a lightly floured surface into a large ⅛"-thick rectangle (about 16x12"), dusting with more flour as needed. With the bottom of a glass or biscuit cutter, cut out cookies and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Gather the scraps, work the dough, dusting with flour as needed, and reroll dough, cutting the remaining cookies.  (If the dough becomes too soft and sticky, place dough back into the refrigerator). Place cookies in the refrigerator to chill. Bake, rotating baking sheet front to back and top to bottom halfway through, until edges are firm, 12–15 minutes. Let cool on baking sheets.

To assemble ice cream sandwiches, using a 4-oz. ice cream scoop or ½-cup measuring cup, scoop out large domes of ice cream onto an upside cookie. Top each with a right-side-up cookie, then press down gently until ice cream extends to the edges. Freeze sandwiches until ice cream is hard, about 2 hours. Cover tray with plastic wrap and freeze at least another 8 hours to let cookies soften, if you can wait that long.

Mexican Chocolate Flan w/ Candied Kumquats

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

This Mexican Chocolate Flan w/ Candied Kumquats is indulgent, festive and beautiful.  I contemplated for a couple of weeks what I wanted to make for this holiday.  I thought about a nice cocktail but I’m not much of a drinker (total lightweight), so I went straight for what’s close to my heart: Chocolate.  A Mexican Chocolate Flan at that.

The most difficult thing about this dessert is caramelizing the sugar.  This process can go from, “I did it, it’s a perfect amber color” (happy dance) to “Crap, I burned it? It was perfect a second ago.”  Yes, it can go completely wrong that fast.  Once you’ve mastered the caramel and poured the sauce into individual ramekins or custard dishes, it’s time to make the chocolate custard base.  You want to use a top-quality chocolate and I suggest this for all your chocolate desserts.  So, what’s a top-quality chocolate?  Here are some indicators I go by. 

1.       It costs a little more than commercial chocolate.
2.       Good chocolate has simple ingredients (high cocoa solids, cocoa butter content, sugar).  Make sure sugar is not the first ingredient when purchasing chocolate.
3.       Taste it-a good chocolate will melt in your mouth and the texture should be creamy and smooth.
4.       Industry standards-look at what your favorite chefs are using for their desserts. Sometimes they’ll list the types of chocolate they use.

Here are some top quality brands I’ve used.  If you have any other brands that you love, please let me know.  I’m always on the lookout for a good quality chocolate.

Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker, Inc.
Vosges Haut Chocolate
Valrhona-my go to
Godiva
Jacques Torres Chocolate

The chocolate custard base requires a bit of stirring and straining to get a smooth texture. Once you’ve filled your ramekins with the completed chocolate custard base, you’ll have to bake the custards surrounded by a water bath or Bain-Marie.  This will prevent curdling and cracking.  Once baked in the oven, allow to cool, make your candied Kumquats, release the custard from the ramekin (the best part), garnish and enjoy the fruit of your labor. 

It’s still early!  You can make this for later.  Your guests will love you. 

Enjoy! 

Mexican Chocolate Flan w/ Candied Kumquats//serves 6
Adapted from What’s Cooking America

chocolate flan
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
1 tablespoon water
Drop of lemon juice
5 cups whole milk, 2 % milk, or plant based milk
2 cinnamon sticks
3 ounces dark chocolate*
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 large eggs, room temperature

* Always use a top-quality chocolate.

In a heavy saucepan over low to medium-low heat, combine 1 cup sugar, water, and drop of lemon juice (the lemon juice keeps the mixture from hardening or crystallizing).  

Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, until sugar dissolves and mixture just begins to simmer.  

After sugar dissolves and syrup is simmering, cook for approximately 8 to 10 minutes, without stirring.  Hold handle of pan and gently tilt the pan off the heat to distribute color evenly as sugar caramelizes.  Watch it carefully, as it can go past the light brown stage quickly and burn.  If you start to see a medium light amber color, you can take it off the heat, so that it can finish cooking with the residual heat.

For the chocolate custard, in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat, bring the milk to a slow simmer; add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon sticks.  Be careful not to bring it to a full boil, and do not cover with a lid.  Let simmer for one (1) hour.

Meanwhile, chop the chocolate into small pieces.  Add and stir the chopped chocolate into the hot milk.  Stir every 10 minutes or so until the chocolate has been fully incorporated into the milk.  At some point, a milk film will appear, but do not worry about it, because you will strain the mixture later.  In the last 10 minutes, add the vanilla extract.  Remove milk from heat and let cool for 15 minutes.

While the milk cools, beat the eggs with a hand-held mixer at medium speed for 3 to 4 minutes.  This will make your custard a little fluffier than if you beat the eggs with a fork.

After the milk has cooled, pour the hot milk mixture through a fine-meshed strainer.

Add a few tablespoons of the hot milk to the eggs and stir.  This will temper the eggs so they do not curdle.  Repeat about three more times, then add the egg mixture to rest of the milk in the pan and stir with a spoon.  If you see any curdling, pour the mixture through a clean strainer again.

Pour the mixture into the ramekins or pie pan and set into a large pan for the water bath.  Pour hot water to come half-way up the sides of the custard cups. 

Preheat oven at 325 degrees F.  Bake prepared chocolate flan approximately 30 to 35 minutes or until set around the edges but still loose in the center time.  The custard should be firm.

Remove from oven and leave the flans in the water bath until cooled.  When cool, remove cups or pan from water bath and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

To unmold and serve, carefully dip bottom of each ramekin in a baking pan of hot water briefly.  Run a thin knife around the edge of each ramekin to loosen it from the inside of the bowl.  Place an individual chilled serving plate (topside down) on top of each flan.  Invert the custard onto the plate and carefully lift off ramekin.  You may have to gently shake the ramekin or pie pan it to loosen the custard.

candied kumquats
1 pint of kumquats, sliced into rounds, seeds removed
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup water

In a small saucepan, add the sugar, water and kumquats and bring to a boil.  Once the kumquat mixture starts boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and let the kumquat mixture cool. Once cooled, strain the simple syrup and return the syrup to the pan to reduce further.  Combine the kumquats and syrup together.  Serve or refrigerate for up to two weeks