Mushrooms and Polenta Monk’s Bowl Recipe

Charleston chef John Ondo puts locally grown mushrooms to work.

A red wine-poached egg tops Charleston chef John Ondo's Monk's Bowl, full of mushrooms grown at nearby Mepkin Abbey.

Monk's Bowl

A red wine-poached egg tops Charleston chef John Ondo's Monk's Bowl, full of mushrooms grown at nearby Mepkin Abbey. 

Photo by: Image by Julie Masciangelo

Image by Julie Masciangelo

A red wine-poached egg tops Charleston chef John Ondo's Monk's Bowl, full of mushrooms grown at nearby Mepkin Abbey. 

When he was a child in Charleston, South Carolina, John Ondo listened as monks from nearby Mepkin Abbey spoke about the value of earning a living with the work of your hands. 

Decades later, Ondo is the chef/owner of Lana restaurant, where he honors their work with his Monk’s Bowl, a hearty dish full of sautéed white oyster and shitake mushrooms grown by the Trappist monks at Mepkin Abbey. 

Even if you’re not a chef who has monks delivering meaty mushrooms to the kitchen door, you can still make Ondo’s beautiful Monk’s Bowl—a hearty blend of polenta, beef jus and mushrooms topped with an egg poached in red wine. 

For many of us, foraging for mushrooms means finding them at local farmers markets. Here are Ondo’s tips for a successful hunt:

  • Don’t rinse mushrooms before you store them. Keep them in a small cardboard or paper bowl with a dry paper towel placed on top to absorb any moisture.
  • When looking for mushrooms, you want them to be firm with little excess moisture.
  • Portobello mushrooms are mature versions of common button mushrooms. Cremini are the same species in adolescent form. All white and brown mushrooms cultivated in the United States—except shitakes and oysters—are varieties of this species. Portobello mushrooms are all cultivated year-round, but are at their best in the summer during warm weather with moderate to heavy rainfall.
  • ‘Summer’ chanterelles are deep yellow and shaped like trumpets. They are best in late summer and early fall, depending on the rainfall. They are usually best after heavy rain.
  • Oyster mushrooms are delicate and less earthy tasting than wild chanterelles. Their seasonal harvest depends on the region, but most can be found late summer through fall. Spring and Aspen oyster mushrooms can be found late spring or early summer.
  • Shitakes can be enjoyed year-round, but are at their peak in fall and winter.

Monk’s Bowl with Sauteed Mushrooms, Beef Jus, Polenta and Red Wine-Poached Egg

Courtesy of John Ondo, chef/owner of Lana Restaurant & Bar, Charleston, South Carolina

Yields 4 servings

For the polenta

  • 3 cups polenta
  • 6.5 cups water
  • 1 handful Parmesan
  • Salt to taste

Bring water to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Remove from heat and stir in polenta, continuing to stir constantly. Return to heat and cook over medium-low heat for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Stir in the Parmesan, if desired. Season with salt and serve. 

*Polenta can get thick fast, so keep a post of water hot so you can add a little at a time to get the proper consistency—not too thick, not too runny. 

For the sauce

Yields 4 servings

  • 1. 5 pounds oyster, shitake, cremini and/or portobello mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 10 ounces beef or veal jus, available at most butcher shops and high-end groceries
  • 1 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoons chives, chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste

In a large sauté pan over high heat, heat butter and olive oil until golden and bubbly, then add mushrooms and stir occasionally, about once a minute once the mushrooms begin to soften. Then add shallots and red wine and reduce wine until it’s almost gone. Add beef of veal jus, chives and parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. 

For the farm eggs

  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 eggs, farm fresh
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 pinch pepper

Bring red wine and water to a boil and, one by one, break eggs gently into the liquid at the point where the most bubbles are occurring. (This will help spin the eggs to keep them intact and from breaking apart). Reduce heat to medium and poach for about 3-4 minutes. Gently remove eggs using a slotted spoon and place on a paper town to drain. Remove any stringy bits from the eggs and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. 

To serve, place a scoop of polenta in a large soup bowl and spoon mushroom sauce on top. Finish by topping with a poached egg.

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