Red Wine Wild Mushroom Ragù
(courtesy of Hank Shaw and his website, Honest-food.net. Serves 8 to 10)
This is intended to be created with locally sourced or foraged mushrooms and acorns. The acorn pasta recipe can be found online at Honest-food.net.
A note on the mushrooms: If you are not a forager and are buying dried mushrooms in the store, the standard half-ounce package you see in the produce section will be a good substitute for the foraged "handful." You also can buy all kinds of fresh and dried mushrooms online at Earthy.com.
About 2 to 3 ounces dried mushrooms (porcini, morel, chanterelle, black trumpet, matsutake, maitake, oyster, etc.)
3 tablespoons duck fat, butter, or olive oil
¼ pound thick bacon, cut into ½-inch chunks
1 onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups red wine
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 to 3 cups hot water for soaking mushrooms
Sprig fresh oregano
Grated hard cheese, such as Parmesan or pecorino, for garnish
Put mushrooms in large bowl and fill with hot tap water until covered. Let soak for at least 30 minutes and up to several hours, depending on how large or old mushrooms are (larger and older mushrooms may take longer to rehydrate). Remove mushrooms once they've rehydrated and rinse them; save and set aside soaking water. Put mushrooms in tea towel, wrap up, and squeeze dry. Chop mushrooms and set aside.
Slowly strain brown, mushroom-soaking water through fine sieve with cheesecloth set inside. Discard final few tablespoons of liquid, which will be full of bits. Remove all grit.
In Dutch oven or other large pot with lid, heat duck fat, butter, or oil over medium heat. Add bacon and fry gently until crispy. Remove bacon and add onions, turning up heat to medium-high. Stir and cook until onions begin to brown. Add garlic and mushrooms and stir well. Cook 3 to 4 minutes, stirring often, until you begin to see garlic starts to brown. Return bacon to pot, add tomato paste, and stir well. Cook 1 minute.
Pour in red wine and add oregano. Stir well and bring to a strong boil. Cook down for 5 minutes. Add mushroom liquid up to level of mushrooms for a loose stew rather than a soup consistency. Taste for salt and add if needed. Let simmer (not boil) until liquid reduces and begins to tighten, about 20 minutes. Cover and turn heat to low. Cook for 1 hour.
Prepare and boil water for pasta. Cook and drain pasta.
To serve, mix some ragù with pasta and top with more sauce. Garnish with chopped fresh oregano, freshly ground black pepper, and grated cheese.