019: Mushrooms

My favorite “vegetable.” I’ve liked mushrooms since I was a little kid. Chicken cacciatore, carbonara, and mushroom pork chops were somewhat frequent dinners in my family, and I think it’s these dishes that solidified my fondness for the weird mold-meat that is mushrooms. What’s that? “Mold-meat” is unnecessarily gross and not very accurate? Too bad, cause mushrooms are just kind of gross!

Menu (serves 3)
Mushroom, Roasted Pepper, and Green Bean Salad
Caramelized Onion, Mushroom, and Swiss Tart
Cream of Chanterelle Soup
Wild Mushroom Carbonara
Mango Rice Pudding

Mushroom, Roasted Pepper, and Green Bean Salad
-1/4lb green beans
-1/4lb button mushrooms
-2 small bell peppers
-2T cream cheese
-red wine vinegar

Heat the oven to 400. Put the peppers on a sheet and brush them with olive oil. Put the tray in the oven and roast it until the peppers are soft and the skin is scorched and puffy. Remove the peppers to a paper bag, and crush it closed. The steam from the peppers will loosen the skin further. I used purple peppers! They’re just yellow inside, though.

Cut the ends off the beans, and cut them into 2-inch sticks. Boil them in salted water until tender and crisp. Quarter the mushrooms, or halve them if they’re small. Heat a little oil in a pan, and saute them until cooked through.
Remove the skin from the peppers. Cut them open, and into small strips. Toss the peppers, beans and mushrooms together, then chill in the fridge. When it’s cooled, add the cream cheese, salt and red wine vinegar to taste. It should be somewhat creamy, and a little sour.

Caramelized Onion, Mushroom, and Swiss Tart
-1 onion
-1/2lb button mushrooms
-1 clove garlic
-puff pastry
-1/2 cup swiss or gruyere cheese
-1 egg
-splash white wine or chicken stock

Shell the onion, cut it in half lengthwise, then slice each half thinly. Heat some oil in a pan, and throw the onions in. Sprinkle with salt. After a while, reduce the heat. Stir them occasionally. Continue cooking until they’re brown, sticky, and sweet.

Slice the mushrooms. Mince the garlic. Heat another bit of oil in the pan, and add the mushrooms and garlic. Saute til the mushrooms are soft and wet looking. Add the wine or stock, and let it cook off.

Preheat the oven to 400.
Grate the cheese. Roll out the puff pastry (or in my case, the phyllo dough). Use something round as a guide for your knife, and cut 5 rounds. Make four cuts every 90 degrees on the dough, about half an inch in. Spoon some of the onion and mushroom into the center of the dough. Sprinkle a layer of cheese over the mushrooms. Beat the egg, and add a little water to make a wash. With a pastry brush, coat the dough as thoroughly as possible.

Put the tarts onto parchment paper on a baking sheet, and slide them into the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown and the cheese is melted.

Cream of Chanterelle Soup
-4 cups chicken stock
-5T butter
-2T flour
-1 pound chanterelle mushrooms
-2 shallots
-1/2c cream
-1 shot brandy
-1/4t saffron
-3 egg yolks

Chop up the chanterelles and mince the shallots. Since chanterelles are hecka expensive, I padded out a half pound with oyster mushrooms.

Heat the stock in a pot. In another, heavy pot (this is the soup pot), melt 2T of butter. Add the flour and stir it together to make a roux. Cook it for a few minutes, without letting it brown. Pour the stock in, and stir. Let it simmer for 20 minutes.
While that’s going on, saute the mushrooms and shallots in a pan with some butter or oil, and salt. When the mushrooms are soft, mix the saffron into the brandy, and add it to the pan. Let the alcohol cook off, then pour all of it into a food processor. Puree. Put a strainer over the pot with the stock, and strain the mushroom puree into the pot, pressing liquid through with a spoon.

I used the leftover solids as a little spread for the base of the tarts, but you can use it for whatever. It still tastes pretty great, even with the liquid squeezed out! Cook the soup for another 15 minutes.
This next part is weird and French, and it really messed my soup up. Mix the egg yolks with the cream, and slowly add ladlefuls of soup to the mixture. Basically you’re trying to incorporate the yolks without cooking them, to add body to the soup. When you’ve mixed in three or four ladlefuls, add the mixture back to the pot. Add the rest of the butter. Simmer at incredibly low heat.

Wild Mushroom Carbonara
-1/2lb king oyster mushroom
-1/2lb lobster mushroom
-3T butter
-1 onion
-1lb spaghetti
-1 cup grated parmesan
-2 eggs

Start boiling water for the pasta. Cut the king oyster mushroom into small cubes. Take a look at some pictures of carbonara; this mushroom is supposed to take the place of the bacon (or whatever cured ham), so try for pieces about that big. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a large pan. Saute the mushroom until it’s browned. Sprinkle with salt and splash some white wine into the pan. When it’s mostly dry, pour it into a large bowl. Dry out the pan. Dice the onion. Clean off the lobster mushrooms as best you can, then cut them into thin, prawn-sized pieces. Melt the other 2T of butter in the pan, and sweat the onions. Add the mushrooms. Salt, wine if you want. Cook until the mushroom is tender. then add it to the bowl.

Cook the pasta. When it’s al dente, pull it out of the water and let it cool down a little.
Mix the eggs and parmesan in a bowl. When the pasta is hot, but not TOO hot, add it to the bowl. Pour the egg and cheese mixture in, and toss the pasta to coat, and distribute the mushrooms. Pepper it heavily, and toss again.

Mango Rice Pudding
-1T butter
-1/3 cup arborio rice
-1/4 cup white sugar
-pinch of salt
-4 cups milk
-1t vanilla extract
-fresh mango

This is the first official repeat dish. I wanted to make truffle rice pudding, but truffles weren’t available, and this extra unripe mango from mango night was finally ripe, so I figured I’d try it again.
Heat up the milk, on low heat so it doesn’t scald.
Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan on medium heat. Pour the rice in, and cook it briefly in the butter (about 45 seconds). Ladle in some of the milk. You’re gonna be stirring a whole lot, so get ready! Stir the rice as it absorbs the milk. When it’s time for more milk, you’ll be able to tell. The mixture will get kind of tight and “dry” in a particular way. Watch the video in the linked recipe for a visual aid. Keep adding milk a little at a time, stirring constantly. At a certain point, you can add milk in larger quantities. Again, you’ll be able to tell. It’s hard to define, but you will.

When you reach the end of the milk, stir in the sugar, and vanilla. Distribute the pudding into dishes. Chop up the mango, and put a little handful on top.


Well, looks like I wasted a good amount of money after all.  Fancy mushrooms are real expensive! Absolutely every dish came out wrong in some way, again. Here we go-
Salad: The salad was okay, but it wasn’t really a dinner dish. My salads lately have foregone greens and it seems like they suffer for it. It was plain. The cream cheese tasted decent, but it was weird to have in the salad. I used a mixture of several recipes, none of which I think I really missed critical components of.
Tart: For some reason I thought phyllo dough and puff pastry were the same thing. I think this happened last time, too, where I tried to make that pepper tart with phyllo? Anyway, the phyllo didn’t look very good, but the tarts came out really nice. They tasted good, they were buttery and crispy, and the mushroom had that spongy mushroom texture we all love. Aside from the dough mix-up, this dish was really good.
Soup: So if you look at the photos of the soup, you’ll see that it’s like completely sludgy with egg flakes. I did the egg yolk thing like they asked, and kept the soup on low heat, but the eggs cooked anyway and gave the soup a really unpleasant look and texture. The taste was okay, but not great, and not worth the money I paid for special mushrooms. If the eggs hadn’t gotten messed up, this would still be a 4 or 5 out of 10. Tasted pretty much exactly how you’d expect. Earthy, a little salty. It definitely tasted like mushrooms, but that’s about it.
Pasta: This one is the most embarrassing. I didn’t cook the lobster mushroom enough. That was basically the only problem with this dish, but it’s a big one. It was sort of crunchy. Didn’t have the slick texture I was hoping for. The king oyster mushroom was good, but I should have cooked it more so it dried out a bit. Otherwise, the pasta was right. It had the carbonara aroma, the eggs didn’t curdle, it had a good level of pepper. It needed a little salt, could have used more cheese.
Dessert: I served this warm, mostly because I didn’t get around to making it before dinner, and I didn’t want people to have to wait for it to cool off. But, it’s probably good I didn’t get to chill it because I have the feeling it would have gotten all gluey like last time. What happened this time was there wasn’t enough milk. It turned out a little bitey. It tasted good, maybe short on the sugar. The mango was still not totally ripe, after two weeks! It was good enough, though, definitely still better than mangoes I normally get.
Before I wanted to do truffle rice pudding, I spent a lot of time looking for mushroom desserts, and found that basically every recipe in that vein called for candy cap mushrooms, which sound really great. When dried, they have an incredibly strong aroma of maple syrup. But, they’re 26 dollars an ounce, so I tried to make do without.

This was pretty disappointing. Before I started cooking, I was pretty sure I’d be able to pull all of these off without any trouble. I had two friends over for dinner, and probably should have relegated tasks, but I never felt like I would have saved time by doing so. Probably woulda, though!

The lobster mushroom was really cool. “Lobster mushroom” is actually another type of fungi, in the phylum ascomycete, the same as morels, truffles, and yeast. It grows parasitically on various types of mushrooms, covering the host, turning it cooked-lobster orange. Not only does the affected mushroom look like a lobster, it smells really strongly of seafood. Like a warm bag of shrimp shells or something. It has a much milder taste, so don’t be put off by the smell. I cooked a bit of one before I really started cooking, and it came out SO MUCH better than it did for dinner, and it was totally delicious and I feel like a real jerk for not getting them right when it counted. Anyway, the thought with the carbonara would be that the lobster mushroom would stand in for shrimp, the king oyster would be the bacon, and both would be, uh, mushrooms.
People go kind of nuts over carbonara. It’s guanciale or pancetta, egg, pepper, cheese, and spaghetti, AND NOTHING ELSE. I’ve never actually had authentic carbonara, but this way produces a nice dish.

This was a lame menu. The one creative dish was the pasta, and it didn’t come out right. Everything else was just sort of wheel-spinning with the week’s ingredient. I was really looking forward to this one, so it sucks I didn’t try anything more with it.

Next Week: Pumpkin

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