When my husband, girls and I first made our trek north to New York to check out the area, we stayed in a hotel with a small kitchen. I was trying to avoid eating out for every meal because I'm sure if you've done it before, you know how old it gets, right?
One of the items I made was a creamy parmesan polenta with skirt steak and a wild mushroom ragout. It was so delicious that I knew I'd have to make it again.
You need to mentally break this meal into three separate tasks. 1)Polenta, 2)Steak, 3)Ragout. Each are very simple to make, but when you bring them all together, it makes for a very showy meal. Not only that, but you could easily have this on your table in 30 minutes! That's something I think we can all appreciate.
Let's start with the polenta. Polenta was considered a mexican peasant type food ... a lot like grits, cornmeal mush... that kind of thing. "Gruel". In recent years, however, polenta has come up in status and is now found in many upscale restaurants. This recipe is dressed up with a little parmesan and mascarpone cheese. If for any reason you can't find mascarpone, use cream cheese. It won't give you the exact flavor, but it will give you the creamy texture that makes this polenta so desireable.
In a saucepan, put 3 1/2 cups chicken stock. Bring to a boil.
While whisking, add 1/2 cup polenta to the stock. It will begin thickening after 3 minutes. Stir to make sure it doesn't burn or get too thick. If it's super super thick, add a little more stock. We don't want runny polenta but we don't want it too thick either. Season with a little salt and pepper. Don't add too much salt.
Add 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese. Mix well. Taste the polenta at this stage. The cheese adds more saltiness so if you've put in too much sal beforehand, it's going to be too salty. This is why I said to not overdo it. If it needs more salt at this point, go ahead and add it.
That is all this dish needs! See what I mean? EASY!! Set the saucepan aside.
Now for the steak. You want to use skirt steak for this meal. I couldn't find skirt steak so I went with a flank cut. They're pretty comparable. Both are very lean cuts of meat and have very little fat. They are also rather thin and cook quickly.
Begin by seasoning both sides well with fresh cracked black pepper and sea salt.
Heat a skillet on medium high heat. Pour a little olive oil into the pan and then put your steak in. Wait until the pan is hot before putting your oil and steak in. The instant heat will sear the steak, which locks in all the juices and flavor. That's key for a good steak.
Let this sear on one side for 3 1/2 minutes then flip over and sear the other side for another 3 1/2 minutes.
Now if this were a skirt steak, which is MUCH thinner than flank, you'd probably be ready to pull it off the pan at this point. However, this was a thicker piece of meat so I covered the pan, lowered the heat just a smidge and let it cook through for another 3-4 minutes.
I like my steak medium rare, so if you want it more done, let it cook a few more minutes.
Once the steak is done, pull from the pan and put on a cutting board. Let it sit and "rest" for about 5 minutes before slicing.
Slice diagonally against the grain tilting the knife at a 45 degree angle. This gives you nice striations and it's easier to get thinner slices. That's what we're going for!
Now let's do the final step: mushroom ragout.
Mince 1 clove garlic.
Peel 2 shallots and slice thinly.
Clean 1 - 1 1/2 cups mushrooms. I suggest using a mixture of wild mushrooms like crimini, white, and shiitake. I had crimini on hand in the fridge and used those. Trim off the stems and slice.
Roughly chop a little italian flat leaf parsley.
Heat 1 tsp olive oil and a little butter in a skillet. Don't let them get too hot otherwise it can distort the flavor.
Add the mushrooms and stir the pan to coat them with the butter/oil.
When the mushrooms start browning, add the garlic and shallots. Stir to mix and saute for a few minutes.
When the aroma is strong, season with salt, pepper, and a little thyme. If you're using fresh thyme, toss in a few sprigs.
After the shallots start getting soft, add 1/4 cup white wine, and 1/4 cup chicken stock. Keep cooking this over medium high heat until the liquid begins to evaporate and reduce by half.
Pull from the heat. It's time to plate up!
Begin by putting some polenta on a plate. See how thick this is? It will hold it's shape like pancake batter.
Take some of your steak slices and lay them in a fan-like fashion on top of the polenta.
Spoon some of the mushroom ragout on top and then sprinkle with a little parsley. Serve immediately.
Now that you've seen each step broken down, it's important to time this right. Each step doesn't take a lot of time to make. Start with the steak because that will probably be the one that takes the longest to sear, cook, and then rest before slicing. While it's in the pan, you can quickly whip up the polenta. That can sit over low low heat while you quickly saute up the ragout. By overlapping your cooking times, you will have this meal on your table within 30 minutes. Something quick, delicious, and elegant in the time it takes to order and have pizza delivered. You can do it! Enjoy!