Wild Mushroom Stew with Polenta for a Ski-Touring Dinner

From Roadside Diaries: Sierra Adventures, Part I  by Cheryl Koehler

There is no reason not to have a gourmet feast while out in the wilderness when one can choose a dish like this made with durable lightweight tools and ingredients. The presentation makes a great impression on fellow campers. Serves 4 (or maybe only 2, if they are extremely hungry). (This recipe is adapted from The Cooking of South-West France by Paula Wolfert.)

For the Stew

1 ounce dried wild mushrooms
1 pound fresh mushrooms, one variety, or a mixture
(substitute an additional 2 ounces dried mushrooms if you don’t want to pack in fresh ones)
3 tablespoons olive oil (or duck fat)
3 ounces prosciutto or dry ham (such as Westphalian), chopped
2 shallots, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
5 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
¾ cup white wine
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 – 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 lemon

For the Polenta

½ cup stone-ground cornmeal or polenta (you might want to use the quick-cooking variety)
2 cups water

Place dried wild mushrooms in a bowl with enough hot water to cover. After they have soaked for about 30 minutes, remove from soaking water and set aside as you strain soaking water through a coffee filter to remove the grit.

Chop soaked mushrooms. Heat olive oil (or duck fat) in a large saucepan and sauté soaked mushrooms briefly before adding the strained liquid to the pan. Simmer over medium heat until most of liquid has evaporated.

Stir in ham, shallots, garlic, and sun-dried tomatoes, and let simmer for 1 minute. Slice fresh mushrooms and add to pan to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the fresh mushrooms have given off their moisture. Add wine and salt and pepper. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in another saucepan and slowly whisk in polenta or cornmeal. Bring to a boil again and then decrease heat to very low. Continue to cook polenta until the stew is ready (unless you are using quick-cooking polenta, in which case you would start it cooking later).

Spoon the polenta onto individual plates or bowls, top with the mushroom stew, and garnish with the chopped parsley. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, if desired.