I didn’t discover this concept of ragout (pronounced “ragoo”) until my early manhood. I went to a restaurant on the west side of Manhattan and asked what is this “rag-out” thing. My friends corrected me as to the pronunciation, and we ordered the thing. Subsequently, I learned that “ragout” comes from the French verb ragoûter, which roughly translates “to stimulate the appetite.” It’s mainly a seasoned, thick stew of meat, poultry or fish which may or may not contain vegetables. To confuse you more, ragu, also derived from ragout, is a popular dish in Italy’s Bologna region and is served with pasta. It’s main ingredients are ground beef and tomatoes, with some onions, carrots and wine wine thrown in.
The dish given below is a traditional ragout made with fish fillets and mushrooms. In the recipe I use perch fillets. But you can substitute cod, haddock, turbot, or any light firm-fleshed fillets. For the mushrooms, I use the oyster variety; but you can use cremini, shiitake, chanterelle, or a mix of mushrooms. Now, some people may add cream to their ragout. I’m told by a diehard, utterly traditional chef that never may you add cream to the ragout. It is “sacrilege, sacré bleu!” I’m not fascistic in my cooking, so, if you want to add cream, or anything else you think will improve the flavor, go right ahead. The subject of good cuisine is to constantly experiment. That’s the real joy of cooking. Also, and this will drive the traditionalists nuts, this is my Latino version of the dish. Muchas gracias.
FISH FILLETS WITH MUSHROOM RAGOUT
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound oyster mushrooms, washed and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 small shallot, sliced thinly
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped dill
4 6-ounce fish fillets
Salt and black ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried
1/2 cup hot water
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet or fry pan (I prefer cast-iron). Add mushrooms and sauté until tender, about 4-5 minutes.
2. Add garlic, shallot, and 1 tablespoon butter. Cook until garlic and shallot are softened, about 1 minute.
3. Add chicken stock, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer until reduced by half and slightly viscous, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in vinegar and cook another 30 seconds. Remove from heat and stir in dill. Cover, and keep warm.
4. Wash fillets under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt, pepper, and oregano, patting seasonings into the fish.
Place fish in a roasting pan. Add water and 1 tablespoon butter. Bake until fish is tender, about 10 minutes.
5. Place fillets in a serving dish, spoon mushroom ragout over fish, and serve.
Yield: 4 servings.