Friday, June 5, 2009

Much Ado About Mushroom

So I think the general format here is going to revolve around Brett primarily posting recipes and anecdotes, and me maybe highlighting one of the ingredients he used in the recipe. Be on the lookout for my cooking philosophies as well. It’s a fluid format for now, so work with us and allow room for future changes.

Ownership of cooking is an important concept to me. Take recipes you see here, omit some things, add others. Double the onions, halve the peppers. Create food you and your friends and family want to eat. Look at Brett’s first recipe, he talks about “a bit” of this and “some” of that. If you’re putting chopped tomatoes in a measuring vessel to make sure you have exactly ½ cup, you’ve missed the point and the fun. Naturally, I’m talking about non-structural elements here, if we post a cake recipe, you can’t arbitrarily use less flour.

How do you accomplish this style of cooking? Through tasting. Taste the ingredients, taste your sauces, taste your finished product. Never let anything go out of your kitchen without a final taste.

Portabella Mushrooms

Brett’s first recipe hit upon one of my favorite ingredients. Mushrooms truly are the love’em or hate’em ingredient. So why am I highlighting such a controversial ingredient? Simply, mushrooms get a bad rap, meld well with a variety of flavors and at least deserve a second chance among anyone that thinks they don't like them. I suspect many of the mushroom haters were chagrined as children when their parents denied them the privilege of pepperoni on pizza and were served canned white mushrooms instead. Cook mushrooms from fresh, and I'm sure you'll find a much more agreeable flavor and texture.

On the other side of the coin, those of us that admire the fungi simply can’t get enough. For us, it’s a lucky thing that mushrooms have so many different applications. They can improve a salad or a steak, get sautéed with chicken or stuffed with crab, or even become the stuffing themselves. All these applications and I haven’t even mentioned the psychoactive properties of some varieties.

The Portabella is, of course, the steak of mushrooms. It’s large, meaty and simply delicious. As such, I love leaving Portabellas whole letting their texture shine through. Do this: Marinate some whole portabellas for a few hours in a mixture of balsamic vinegar, olive oil and black pepper. When they’ve marinated, throw them on the grill, season to taste and cook until done. When are they done? When they are cooked to a texture you like. I’m sorry, that’s the answer. Eat the mushroom just like that. Not looking forward to a big mushroom for dinner? Grill some olive oil brushed ciabatta along side your mushrooms and make a sandwich with goat cheese and baby spinach leaves. Don’t like goat cheese? Use feta. Don’t like feta? Use blue. Don’t like any of those? Stop pretending you like cheese.

Go out, buy some mushrooms and experiment with them. They’ve got myriad applications and are guaranteed to help you feed your friends, satiate your neighbors and expand your cooking horizons.

1 comment:

Brett T. said...

I'm so glad that you picked up on this element of the last recipe. The mushroom is one of the most versatile elements of cooking. I think the stark contrast of the two recipes here is evidence of this fact. In the sandwich recipe we can see how the Portabella adds it's subtle flavor to the othe ingredients, and in your grilled marinated Portabella recipe you get a sense for how quickly a mushroom can absorb and retain the wonderful flavors of the ingredients that surround it. Never be afraid to try new varieties of mushrooms available at grocery stores, you're likely to find a variety that fits a recipe more perfectly than any other ingredient. For example, Chanterelles offer a buttery and lightly sweet element to cooked foods and although expensive, are more than worth the investment.

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