October is here with gusto. The leaves are covering the sidewalks and scrunching them on my walk to work is one of my favorite fall pastimes. The rain is not my favorite thing about fall, but there is a certain relief to the change in the weather. I know many will think I’m crazy for saying this, but we here in the Northwest get a little frantic in the summer. We’re so starved for good weather that when it finally gets here, we run around making sure we get everything we can possibly do outside, done. A person feels guilty staying inside for long on a sunny day because who knows when or if it’ll be back again! So, when the rain comes, it gives me permission to stay inside and read my book or watch an old movie or spend some time on a cooking project. Don’t get me wrong, I love to be outside, it’s just the pressure to enjoy every last drop of summer that starts to get to me by the end of the season.
The other thing I love about the shift in seasons is the mushrooms. I love to forage. There is nothing more satisfying to me then having a meal that I’ve grown or foraged at least part of myself. Our area is a great place to find mushrooms; all that rain is good for something and tomorrow I’m hoping for decent weather to go chantrelle hunting in. But for tonight, I’m making Chicken Bolognese which does have dried porcini (bolete) mushrooms in it. As I was walking home, crunching leaves, I was daydreaming about opening a nice bottle of wine and cooking this dinner. The sauce is hearty and with a caesar salad, makes a perfect fall dinner. I’m busy planning on some meals next week that involve squash and maybe those mushrooms I’m hoping to find, which are more traditionally thought of fall fare, but this meal is perfect for a rainy October night.
Adapted from Casual Cooking by Michael Chiarello
Feeds 6 easily
This took me about 1 1/2 hours including the Caesar salad, probably 1 hour without that
1/4 oz dried porcini
1 cup warm water
5 Tblspoons olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 dried chile arbol
2-3 cloves chopped garlic
2 Tblspoons chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
1 Tblspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 lb ground chicken or turkey
sea salt and pepper
1/3 cup dry white wine or red wine
1 cup chicken stock
3/4 cup marinara sauce or tomato puree (I always use pureed Muir Glen whole tomatoes for this) Although for this I used 1 1/3 cups puree
1 lb fresh tagliatelle or dried spaghetti
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
In a small bowl, rehydrate the porcini in the warm water for 30 minutes. Use a slotted spoon and lift out the porcini and chop finely. Strain the liquid through a double thickness of paper towels to catch any grit. Reserve the chopped mushrooms and the liquid separately.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute gently until softened, about 5 minutes, do not let it color. Crumble the chile and add it, stir for a minute or so then add the garlic, parsley and thyme and cook for a minute or two to release the fragrance.
Raise the heat to medium-high and add the chicken. Break up the meat and cook until cooked through. Add salt and pepper to taste, then add the wine and simmer until it evaporates. Add the stock, 1/2 cup of the porcini liquid and the porcini. Simmer for a couple of minutes to reduce the liquid, then stir in the tomato puree.This time I had some fresh tomatoes from my neighbor and I chopped them and made a puree with my immersion blender. I ended up with 1 1/3 cups puree in the end and added it all. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Keep warm over low heat and cook the pasta.
Add pasta to boiling water and cook until just shy of al dente. Set aside 1 cup of pasta water, then drain the pasta. Return the pasta to the warm pot over moderate heat. Add the sauce and cook the pasta briefly so it absorbs some of the sauce. Add the 1/4 cup cheese and toss again, adding some of the reserved pasta water if it seems dry. The extra tomato puree made this one the best yet, big fat YUM! My husband gave it a 9.5 out of 10 for pasta.
Serve immediately and top with extra Parmesan if desired. A good side with this is broccolini or Caesar salad. I’m following this with my favorite Caesar salad recipe, which is also from the Michael Chiarello cookbook.