Friday, December 13, 2013

Fall for Mushrooms

Mushrooms. Their earthy fragrance and taste makes me think of the forest after rainfall. Their meaty texture is often used to provide a hearty, deep flavor to foods. Great alone, simply sauteed, or used as a base for soups and sauces, there are many varieties of mushroom to choose from to enhance our dishes.

Button mushrooms are the most common, but you can also find crimini, dried porcini and portobellos in most supermarkets and if you have never tried these, they are a real treat.
Earthy and very fragrant. 

Other cultivated species used a lot in Asian cuisine include shiitake, maitake, oyster, and enoki (the majority of mushrooms are grown in Asia, by the way). Of course there are truffles, "hunted" by specially trained dogs or even pigs, in the forest. A medium sized basket can bring the truffle hunter upwards of $10,000!
Though often eaten raw in salads, I think mushrooms are best cooked. My favorite way to enjoy them as an appetizer is to simply saute small mushrooms in garlic and butter, then sprinkle freshly chopped parsley and salt and pepper over them, or to take larger "stuffing mushrooms" and fill them with grated Jack cheese, garlic powder, parsley, salt and pepper and grill them for a few minutes on a stove top grill or bake them in the oven with a little bit of a sprinkling of bread crumbs on top.

For mushroom meals, there are a couple of delicious recipes I wanted to share. If you try them, please let me know what you think by leaving a comment below.

Mushrooms with Paprika and Sour Cream
Chanterelle Mushrooms
1 1/2 Tbsp. each butter and olive oil
1 bunch scallions, including some of the greens, chopped
1 pound large white mushrooms, thickly sliced or quartered*
salt and freshly milled black pepper
1 tsp. flour
1 Tbsp. sweet Hungarian paprika
1/2 cup mushroom stock (or chicken stock or beef stock if you prefer)
1/2 cup sour cream or creme fraiche

* My mother makes a version of this using Chanterelle mushrooms. If you can find them in your supermarket, grab some for a little different flavor.  Recipe calls for white mushrooms but I actually used a combination of shiitake and crimini (Italian brown) mushrooms for a little interest.

Heat the butter and oil in a wide skillet over high heat. Add the scallions and mushrooms and saute until the mushrooms begin to color, about 6 min. Lower the heat and season with 3/4 tsp. salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the flour and paprika over the mushrooms, add the stock, and simmer, covered, for 3-4 minutes. Stir in the sour cream, and gently heat through, but do not boil. Serve over wide flat egg noodles, wild rice or barley.

Serves 3-4.

The following dish is absolutely terrific. I have prepared it often. You will wish you had made more!

Pollo alla Cacciatora (Hunter's Chicken)

1 cup dried porcini mushrooms
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
4 chicken pieces, on the bone, skinned
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 can (14 oz.) chopped tomatoes
2/3 cup red wine
1 garlic clove, crushed
leaves of 1 sprig fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 3/4 cups fresh field mushrooms, thinly sliced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
fresh rosemary sprigs for garnish

Put porcini in a bowl, add 1 cup warm water and soak for 20-30 minutes to rehydrate them. Remove from the water and squeeze the porcini over the bowl, strain the liquid and reserve. Finely chop them.
Heat the oil and butter in a large flameproof casserole until foaming. Add the chicken and saute over medium heat for 5 minutes or until golden. Remove and drain on paper towels. Add the onion and chopped mushrooms to the pan. Cook gently, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes, until the onion has softened but not browned. Stir in the tomatoes, wine and reserved mushroom soaking liquid, then the garlic and rosemary, salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, stirring the entire time. Return chicken to the pan and coat with the sauce. Cover and simmer gently for 25 minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms and stir well to mix into the sauce. Simmer for 15 min. more or until chicken is tender. Taste for seasoning. Serve hot with mashed potatoes or polenta. Garnish with rosemary.

Serves 4.

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