I have had multiple people ask me the difference between Ragout and Ragu, and I have more or less always provided this answer: Ragout, pronounced the same as Ragu (even though in my head I say it how it looks – “rag – out”) is French and is more of a stew of sorts, often times bulked up with veggies or beans. Ragu is more of a sauce, is Italian, and usually tomato based.
But, I thought maybe it would be a good idea to look it up to see if I was actually directing people correctly or just talking out of my ass. Per the food dictionary on Epicurious, definitions are:
Ragout [ra-GOO] – A derivative of the French verb ragoûter , meaning “to stimulate the appetite,” ragoût is a thick, rich, well-seasoned stew of meat, poultry or fish that can be made with or without vegetables.
Ragu [ra-GOO, rah-GOO] – A staple of northern Italy’s Bologna, ragu is a meat sauce that is typically served with pasta. Though different than the French RAGOUT, both are derived from the verb ragoûter , which means “to stimulate the appetite.” Ragu usually contains ground beef, tomatoes, onions, celery, carrots, white wine and seasonings.
Ummm….I’ll call my answer close enough! But, reading about the merits and differences of Ragu/Ragout made me realize I should make one or the other as soon as possible. Thus, Sunday’s dinner was Pork Chops with Polenta finished with a Mushroom Ragout. Now, one area where I waver on how I feel is whether Ragouts should have cream or no. My answer inevitably comes down to how I happen to feel as I’m cooking the dish and what ingredients I have on hand. Turn’s out, we just happened to have cream in the fridge!
Pork Chops with Polenta and Mushroom Ragout
- 1 pound assorted Mushrooms, chopped
- 1 small Onion, diced
- 1 clove Garlic, minced
- 2 Tablespoons Butter
- 1 Tablespoon fresh Thyme, chopped
- ½ Cup Madeira
- 2/3 cup Chicken Broth
- ½ cup Heavy Cream
- 1 Tablespoon fresh Parsley, chopped
Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Once butter has melted, add onions. Saute for about 3-4 minutes, or until onions start to soften. Salt onions as they cook
Add mushrooms to skillet. If necessary, add mushrooms to pot in several additions. As mushrooms cook down, season with salt and pepper. Cook about 4-5 minutes.
Once mushrooms are cooked down, add garlic and thyme to pan and cook a minute or two.
Add Madeira and cook down until only about a tablespoon of liquid remains.
Add broth and cook down until liquid is reduced by half. Taste and season with salt and pepper as necessary.
Add cream and reduce until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Add parsley and taste for a final seasoning. Set aside until ready to serve. The ragout can be heated up again before serving if necessary
- 1 cup Cornmeal
- 3 cups Water
- 1 cup Whole Milk
- 1/2 cup Corn (fresh or frozen) – optional
- 2 Tablespoons Butter
Bring water and milk to a boil in a sauce pot and season with some salt. SLOWLY whisk in cornmeal and whisk CONSTANTLY to avoid lumps. Once cornmeal is incorporated, you can relax on the stirring, and switch to a wooden spoon if you prefer
If I’m feeling fancy, or if corn is in season and tastes wonderful, I’ll take the corn and do just a quick chop of it in a food processor and then throw it into the polenta as it’s cooking. The corn “juice” provides good flavor, and the kernels that did not end up pureed add great texture.
Add butter to polenta and stir in until meted. Taste to see if seasoning needs adjusted
- 4 bone-in Pork Chops, 6-8 ounces each
- 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
- 1 Tablespoon Butter
Season pork chops on both sides generously with salt and pepper. Heat skillet medium high heat. Once skillet is hot, add olive oil. Once olive oil is hot, add chops. Sear on one side about 3-4 minutes, or until nicely browned and turn over.
Cut butter into 4 pieces and place one nub of butter on each chop. Place skillet with chops in oven and cook about 6-8 minutes for medium. Let chops rest 3-5 minutes once removed from oven.
To serve, place some polenta on center of plate. Rest pork chop against polenta, and finish with a couple spoonfuls of Ragout.
For the assorted mushrooms, I used Portabello, Shitake, and Button. Use what you have/can find – there is no hard and fast rule
As you are cooking the mushrooms, if your pan becomes very dry and you feel like everything is sticking, throw in another tablespoon of butter.
If you don’t have Madeira on hand, feel free to substitute white wine.
For the polenta, you can sub broth for the water if you prefer. Also, you can use all water or stock and no milk if you prefer.
I cook my pork chops in a cast iron pan because I think it helps to give them a beautiful sear.
We had our dinner with the 2006 Epiphany Gypsy. We had a high-end Petite Syrah from this winery a few years ago and went crazy over it, but had not been able to find it since. Just recently, we found this more “budget-friendly” offering from them, and we were not disappointed when we opened it with out meal.