Pumpkin Polenta and Mushroom Ragout

On its own this pumpkin polenta makes a great side dish, and itís also easy to turn into a main course topped with a mushroom and root vegetable ragout. This dish requires a little prep work, but itís delicious and well worth it.

For Mushroom and Root Vegetable Ragout
¼ cupOlive oil
½ tablespoonButter
½White onion, chopped
Salt to taste
½ bulbFennel, cut into medium slices
4 medium (about 1 ½ pounds)Carrots, diced
1 poundCremini mushrooms, cleaned and cut in half
¼ cupBalsamic vinegar
Half a bottleBeer
1 teaspoonGarlic powder
1 teaspoonMustard powder
For Pumpkin Polenta
1 cupPolenta
1 cupWater
1 cupChicken stock
1 cupHalf and half
7 - 8 Fresh sage leaves
½ jarSur La Table Pumpkin Butter, made by Just Jan's
½ cupFinely grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoonSalt


To make the Ragout:

Place the olive oil and butter in a shallow pot or deep pan on medium heat. Heat the oil and butter until butter begins to foam.

Add the onions, and some salt to the butter and olive oil mixture. Cook the onions until they begin to lightly brown. About 5-7 minutes. As the onions continue to brown add the sliced fennel. Cook until the fennel is softened, approximately 3 minutes. Once the fennel has softened, add the carrots. By now everything in the pot should be looking caramelized.

Add the mushrooms and a little more salt. If the pot is looking a little dry, add some more olive oil. Cook the mushrooms for about 2 minutes then add the Balsamic vinegar.

Make sure the heat is not too high, and let the vinegar reduce down, about 10 minutes.

Once the vinegar has reduced, pour about half of a beer into the pot. After the beer has been added add the garlic powder and mustard powder and stir. Taste the liquid and add salt to your taste.

Be sure to not completely cover the vegetables with liquid, they should be about half submerged. Allow the liquid to reduce by about half again, leaving a dark fortified liquid. The vegetables, should still have some firmness.

At this point the ragout is done, and can be set aside while you make the polenta.

To make the Polenta:

(Note the instructions on the package of polenta you are using. For 3 cups of water, this recipe substitutes 1 cup water, 1 cup chicken stock, and 1 cup half and half.)

In a medium pot combine the water, chicken stock, half and half. Add sage leaves to combined liquid.

Bring the liquid up to boil slowly, over low heat. This will infuse the liquid with the aroma and flavor of the sage, but the half and half can sometimes boil over, so raise the heat slowly.

As the liquid comes up to a boil, remove the sage leaves, and using a whisk, stir in the polenta. Continue cooking the polenta for about 5 minutes. As it thickens and tightens, stir in the pumpkin butter and parmesan cheese. It should be thick yet still have a creamy texture. When itís finished turn off the heat and allow it rest.

To serve:

Place a few generous spoonfuls of polenta in a bowl. Using a slotted spoon, place some mushroom ragout on top of the polenta. Next using a regular spoon scoop out some of the liquid in the ragout pot and put along the sides of the polenta in the bowl.

Optional toppings:
Goat cheese
Roasted corn kernels
Roasted pumpkin seeds

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