Love or Loathe?
Enter the Mushroom. Most people are clearly either on one side or the other. I'm one of those people who loves some of them and loathes others. Sorry Mr. Portobello.
I would venture to guess one of the reasons why there is such a strong affinity one way or the other is the intensity of a mushroom. Robust, earthy, with a flavor depth that is undeniable, mushrooms stand up for who they are and make no excuses. For those in favor, raise your hands in proclaiming that those are some of mushrooms' greatest attributes. For those who say, hell no, I don't want that mush in my room, it might just be the texture. And the culprit to that is H2O. Mushrooms are made up of 92% water. If they don't get cooked correctly or they are salted too soon, all that 92% comes running out like Niagara Falls. And what do you get? Mushy, soggy, spongy is what you can expect. That's actually my beef with the portobello, a big sponge that fancies itself a "burger". I guess that's my biggest beef with Señor Portobello. Another thing, let's not forget they are a fungus. So that isn't too appealing either. Crap, what am I doing? I'm supposed to get you to make these mushrooms, not give you reasons not to. Let me take another swig of sherry and start again.
Mushrooms are in a class by themselves. Here is a little mushroom humor. They are neither a meat nor a vegetable. Yet meat eaters believe them to be a vegetable and vegetarians convince themselves they are meat. Go figure. These earthy fungi stand alone in the field, literally, and are mineral and nutrient packed wonders. I could list all of them but that would be boring. Trust that they are good, AND low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol-free, gluten-free, and very low in sodium. Cropping up from the earth with varieties beyond your imagination and sometimes with price points that exceed the imagination, the ways to serve them are just as varied.
Now down to brass tacks. Hopefully I didn't scare you off of eating mushrooms or trying this recipe. Mushrooms are a good thing and they have talents for being cooked up; they can be stuffed or used in stuffing. They can be baked, sauteéd or raw. The can be a side dish or a topping. They can be a sauce or sauced. They can... quite frankly do a lot. My reason for using them recently came by way of appetizer platter dilemma. Our guests regularly get their fill of cured meats and cheeses, so I desperately needed to think out of the box. A stroll through the produce aisle produced an idea for deep, dark earthiness. Enter the Mushroom: LOVE
4 c mushrooms, small chopped (you can use any kind you like. I used cremini.)
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/3 c shallots, fine dice
1/3 c onions, fine dice
2 T scallions
1 T fresh thyme
1/4 t pepper
1/2 t salt
3/4 c sherry wine
squeeze of lemon juice
Mise en place, French for 'everything in its place, is the best way to cook. It allows you to have all your ingredients prepped and ready to go. So cut up your ingredients as described above.
Sweat the shallots and onions in oil and then add the mushrooms. Do not season with salt yet, remember their enormous water content. If you salt them at this point, they will release all their liquid making them MUSHrooms. You want them to get a nice sear on them. Another tip is to not stir them. Let them cook and get caramelized before you give them whirl.
Once they are beautifully browned add the salt, pepper, thyme and garlic and sauté a few minutes more. Add the scallions and sherry wine and let the mixture reduce down absorbing up the liquor. Remove from the heat, squeeze some lemon juice and finish with the zest. You can also drizzle a good olive oil over top. Place in your favorite serving bowl. You can even top this with some chopped parsley and more scallions.
Here is how I completed my appetizer platter. I made bacon jam. Uh ha, another earthy, jammy wonder to cozy up alongside my 'shrooms. Since it wasn't my recipe, not going to dedicate a post to it, but my guests loved it so that I wanted to share it. (Click on the highlighted link above for the recipe.) Then I whipped up some feta cream to spread on grilled bread to be topped with the aforementioned earthy yummies, added some olives, Taleggio cheese, mortadella and roasted peppers.
Something a little different and perfect for a cold Sunday afternoon.
Let there be fungus among us, sauteéd with sherry, of course.