Category Archives: Mushrooms

A weekend in the country.

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I don’t remember what cookbook this was inspired by, but it remains one of the bright moments in a wonderful weekend six years ago. It had been a long winter at work and I needed to recharge. My friend Cliff and I jumped in the car and headed to his home near the coast in Delaware for a weekend of cooking.

Friday night after leaving the city, we grabbed dinner on the road, and arrived for an evening spent pouring through cook books over several bottles of wine. With our menu planned – a random collection of things that sounded delicious and fun – we went to bed.

The rest of the weekend was pure joy and relaxation. Lazy hours combing stores for the perfect ingredients, a quick stop at a cooking store for a new tool or two, and many hours in the kitchen, prepping, peeling, chopping and cooking. We would talk through the perfect plating for each dish and eat them, one-by-one, as they were finished.

The weekend was just two days – we drove home Sunday night – but it seemed like a month. I still remember waking up to see the sun shining through the fields out back, ready for spring planting. Hot cups of coffee in the cold morning kitchen. A lot of laughter, and good food.

Shaved Fennel, Mushroom and Parmesan Salad

Get your mandoline out for this one. While you can make a perfectly serviceable salad with some deft knife work, there is a delicate texture and light balance that can only be achieved by slicing the ingredients paper thin.

Ingredients:
Two of us devoured this last Sunday night, but it would easily serve four as a side or first course.

For dressing:

  • 1 shallot, minced
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice – about 1 lemon
  • Olive oil – the good stuff!

For salad:

  • 1 fennel bulb, tops removed, greens reserved.
  • 6 large white button mushrooms
  • 2-3 ounces great quality parmesan cheese

Directions:

  • Start the dressing: mix the shallot in a bowl with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Set aside.
  • Cut the fennel bulb in half, cutting from top to bottom. Remove the tough core at the base.
  • Slice the tough bases off the mushroom stems.
  • Using your mandolin, shave the fennel and mushrooms paper thin. For the fennel, shave the bulb from top to bottom, not sideways. For the mushrooms, slice sideways, so you get cross sections of the mushrooms.
  • Using a vegetable peeler, peel the Parmesan into thin shavings.
  • Chop some of the reserved fennel fronds – the fine, green bits – and toss one tablespoonful with the fennel ,mushroom and parmesan.
  • Finish the dressing by whisking olive oil in a gentle stream. About 1/2 cup. Taste it along the way by dipping in a little fennel and mushroom. If it is too sharp, add a little more oil, if it gets too fatty, add a little more lemon juice.
  • Serve mounded on a plate, garnished with a small spring of fennel fronds.

It’s not about the money. Part II.

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I wanted super mushroom soup. Mushroomy soup that tasted like mushrooms. Deep rich and delicious, not dull and salty, overpowered by cream and thickeners. I know that much flavor would need to start with a strong stock. Once I had that base I needed more mushrooms. I sautéed the Oyster and Shitake caps whose stems had flavored the stock. A half hour later, I strained the soup again. Now it was rich and mushroomy, beautifully dark brown and clear. But I wanted more!

I sliced Crimini mushroom caps thinly and sautéed them in farm-fresh butter. Deglazing the pan with Madeira added richness. This was it! Three layers of mushrooms and I was finally satisfied. This is was the mushroom flavor I had been looking for!

Mushroomy Mushroom Soup

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 4 cups chopped wild mushrooms. I used Shitake and Oyster.
  • 2 additional cups Crimini mushrooms thinly sliced
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 8-9 cups Rich Mushroom Stock*
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1 tbs chopped thyme
  • 1/2 cup Madeira
  • 1 tbs chopped parsley

Directions:

  • Heat 2 tbs oil in 4 qt saucepan over medium.
  • Sauté shallot 4-5 minutes.
  • Add 4 cups wild mushrooms and sauté until lightly brown.
  • Add thyme and mushroom stock. Simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  • Strain soup, pressing on solids. Reserve the liquid. Save mushrooms for other use.*
  • Meanwhile…melt butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Cook 2 cups sliced mushrooms until lightly browned and pan is dry. Stir in thyme. Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
  • Deglaze pan with Madeira.
  •  Return mushroom broth to 4 qt saucepan. Add sautéed mushrooms and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
  • Season to taste and serve soup garnished with parsley. A tablespoon of butter stirred through will make it nice and rich.
*If you want a thicker soup you can purée the mushrooms into the soup at this point and continue as below. Add a 1/4 cup cream before serving. Or add the mushrooms to braining liquid or Sunday morning’s omelet.

It’s not about the money. Part I.

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It’s about flavor. Lots and lots of flavor.

You’ve had mushroom soup fresh from the can or carton, right? The first thing you taste is salt. Lots and lots of salt. Then there is this vaguely earthy note. Is it mushrooms or just the packaging? If the soup is creamy, the salt is typically the only flavor to escape the overwhelming starchy, non-dairy-ness of the concoction.

I wanted real mushroom soup. Earthy and rich. I wanted to taste concentrated, slap-your-mama, fresh, mushroom flavor. I knew that a good soup recipe alone wouldn’t get me there. I needed the foundation of a rich, flavorful stock.

Knowing I was going to serve this up at Eastern Market on Saturday morning, I had a few constraints. No oven and little time. that meant no roasting the ingredients, and not enough time for a beef stock. Some quick sautéing started to provide rich flavor. MIso paste was a quick and serviceable substitute for beef and a splash of Madeira gave me depth. All that was left was mushrooms, and several cups of stem trimmings, along with some dried Porcinis did the trick.

Now, several cups of mushroom trimmings invariably come from lots of mushrooms. To save a few pennies, I bought some criminis and used the trimmings from the Shitake and Oyster mushrooms I used later in the soup. This stock isn’t cheap (nor is it outrageous) but it satisfyingly delivers every bit of flavor I have promised.

Rich Mushroom Stock

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  •  1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 2-3 cups chopped mushroom stems. I use Shitake, Oyster and Crimini
  • 2 tbs red miso paste
  • 1/2 cup Madeira
  • 1-2 oz dried Porcini mushrooms
  • 4-5 parsley stems
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf

Directions:

  • Sauté onions 2-3 minutes over medium heat in 1-2 tbs oil in a 4 qt saucepan
  • Add carrots and celery. Cook for another 5 minutes. There should start to be some browning on the bottom of the pan.
  • Add mushroom stems and cook until lightly browned.
  • Add miso paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
  • Add the Madeira. As it simmers, stir up the yummy, brown bits off the bottom of the pot. Reduce until almost evaporated.
  • Pour in 10 cups water, add Porcini, parsley, thyme and bay and simmer for 30-40 minutes, partially covered.
  • Strain through a colander, pressing on the solids to release their juices. Then discard solids.
  • Strain a final time through cheese cloth or a chinois. You should have 8-9 cups of stock for your mushroom soup.
This stock would also be wonderful for braising leeks, beef or chicken. Add some to a pan sauce next time you sauté pork chops.

Mushrooms (generally) aren’t poisonous.

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Sure, there are some poisonous mushrooms out there. But most of them are perfectly safe (please, however, consult an expert before picking and eating anything not found in a grocery store or farm market). My dad would have you believe differently.

Dad hates mushrooms and has made it a lifetime commitment to keep them off the table. Fortunately, I have my mom, sister, brother and husband to back me up on this one. Plus, much to his chagrin, dad secretly loves the flavor of Porcinis.

Last weekend I came home with a bagful of beautiful Oyster mushrooms, Shitakes and Hen-of-the-Woods. Their scent was rich and meaty, earthy and begging for butter and herbs. I thought of them chopped fine, softened and browned and a tapenade came to mind. No mushrooms, but salt, vinegar and layer-upon-layer of flavor.

Capers were obvious (thanks Jim!). The anchovy paste less so. BTW if the mention of anchovy paste got your cursor speeding across the screen to close this window as fast as possible, STOP! You won’t taste it at all. At least not that you recognize. It will smell super-fishy when you first add it, but that goes away and just adds a little je ne sais quoi to the recipe, otherwise known as the flavor umami. I double-dog-dare you.

We first put this on toasted baguette. I also happened to be roasting a chicken with potatoes, and we spooned the mushrooms over both. Lots of them.

Wild Mushroom Tapenade

Ingredients:
  • 4 tbs butter
  • 2 lg shallots, minced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp anchovy paste*
  • 4 cups chopped wild mushrooms**
  • 2 tbs olive oil – the good stuff!
  • 2 tbs capers, rinsed and minced
  • 1 tbs chopped oregano (thyme and rosemary work well too)
  • 1 tbs chopped parsley
* I’m not letting this go. It really does make a difference in the flavor, but you won’t taste any fishiness at all. You can find anchovy paste in a tube in the italian or spanish aisle in your grocery store. If not, buy a jar of them, preserved in oil, and mash it into a paste with a fork.
**You can use just about anything here. Portabellos, Chanterelles, Shitakes, Oysters etc… If you are making this for a crowd, save yourself a few bucks and use criminis or white button mushrooms for up to half of the total volume.
Directions:
  • Melt 2 tbs butter in a large sauté pan over med-low heat. A big pan is important so that the mushrooms are not crowded later. Add shallot and cook until softened, about 5 min.
  • Add garlic and anchovy paste and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.
  • Raise heat to medium, add 2 tbs butter, melt, and add mushrooms.
  • Cook mushrooms until softened and golden, about 8-10 minutes. When you first add them, watch for burning. They will immediately suck up all the butter. Then they will release their own liquid. As that liquid evaporates the flavors will concentrate and deepen.
  • Add capers, oregano and parsley, stir through and cook until fragrant. 1 minute.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper and possibly a squeeze of lemon juice.