Archived entries for mushrooms

Easy Entertaining: Pappardelle with Duck Ragu

I’ve said it before; entertaining on a weeknight requires advance planning. While some dishes can be thrown together last minute, you need a least a few minutes for that. And my mission this Friday was woefully short on minutes for last-minute prep. In fact, I didn’t really have a minute all week.

I started a new job, and within a day found myself clumsily attempting to man the site’s main queue while my new coworkers traveled to Austin, California, Seattle, Chicago, Madison, and other places. (Yes, they went to ALL of those places this week. It’s madness in the name of a looming book deadline.) It was a trial by fire for me, which is likely the best way to learn (and to figure out what I need to learn), but then all of a sudden it was Friday and my husband Matt’s birthday and there was a dinner party to be thrown.

Enter the freezer. You can make this umami-rich duck ragu the weekend before (or even earlier than that) and pop it in the freezer till the morning of the party. Defrost the sauce, boil some pasta, throw together a quick salad, and dinner for eight is served, your title as Kitchen Master retained.

I kept my crown. This dish is a winner, savory with slow-cooked duck and earthy mushrooms, and quite a bit of wine. I must apologize: the recipe below is a little loose, but it’s more or less what I did. Be sure to salt the final dish, it needs it. The secret ingredient is a package of frozen porcini I found at Buon Italia in Chelsea Market. I wasn’t sure how good they’d be, but chopped finely enough, they add a serious hit of flavor. Dried porcini simply do not compare.

This is a perfect dish to serve with Pinot Noir—the duck and the mushrooms bring out the delicate earthy qualities of the wine, and the wine cuts the richness of the sauce. We savored a wedding-gift bottle from Patricia Green Cellars—magic.

Looking for other make-ahead dishes for weeknight entertaining?

Try this lamb and duck cassoulet or these port-braised lamb shanks.

My mom’s chili is another great choice, as is this Moroccan chickpea stew.

Continue reading…

Late-Summer Leftovers

There are a few things I’ve been meaning to tell you about. In the flurry of August travel (three wedding ceremonies in three days!) and gearing up for fall, my posts have been short and more about what’s on our plates than what’s in my mind.

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First, there were mushrooms. I was invited (disclosure: and paid!) to enter this recipe/photo contest and you still have a few days to vote for me. It’s just a simple click, no registration required. The crazy buffalo-blue-cheese stuffed button mushrooms I made were kind of a risky experiment, but turned out delicious, bold and rich and zingy. They’d be perfect for a fall football party or a Halloween fete, especially since they’re sort of orange. Add your vote here by Friday! (Full recipe here.)

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Second, there’s been wine. Not just sips and sips of  Sauvignon Blanc but also riesling and txakolina, paired with two delicious dishes for a late-summer dinner dinner party. You can read about them at the online wine journal Palate Press.

And third. The Big News. My last day at the publishing company I’ve worked for for the last six years is Friday. I’m moving out of design and on to a job I’ve been dreaming of for a long time now…more details to come.

Thai Coconut Noodle Soup with Panko-Crusted Chicken

It is a lucky man indeed who can count cooks of both Shiv’s and Swiss’s caliber among their friends. Not only does keeping them around mean one gets to eat the food they make (which, let me just tell you, is spectacular indeed), if one is very lucky, one gets the chance to cook alongside them. Shiv and I have quite a bit of experience working in the same kitchen — it turns out that adding Swiss to the party was like adding a few new steps to a very familiar dance. The three of us spun around each other all afternoon in a manner that would be best described as balletic. I had tremendous fun, and would like to offer an official Thank You to both of them for inviting me to help out with their scheme. Their tasty, tasty scheme.

For my part in the Coconut Dinner Party, I was tasked with whipping up the main course, a solid and surprisingly hearty Thai dish, which would be bracketed on either side by the others’ more ethereal creations. In the best Thai style, this soup fuses Salty, Spicy, and Sour for some serious multi-layered flavor. It starts with a backbone of gorgeous aromatics, gets some heat from both chili and red curry, a salty fish sauce tang, and the zip of freshly-squeezed lime. Coconut milk serves to round off the harsh edges, and you’re left with a savory, creamy broth that would be delicious on its own — but we gilded the lily with the textural additions of some silky noodles and the crunch of panko-crusted chicken.

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You can probably use any kind of chicken in this — or for that matter, seared tuna, thinly-sliced beef, tofu if you’re so inclined — but we opted for the dark meat of chicken thigh. The flavor tends to be much richer than a standard chicken breast, I think that it’s a little more tender, and the oily unctuousness both blended well with the coconut milk and provided a good counterpoint to the crackle of the panko. Bonus: you might also get a chance to debone the thighs yourself, which I personally found very satisfying.

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The soup ended up being a two-stage affair, with the broth leisurely constructed early on in the afternoon, and a brief dash at the end to cook the chicken, plate, and garnish all at once. Also, can we please have a cheer for non-superfluous garnishes? The cilantro and scallion tossed on top as the bowls are headed tableside add a perfect breath of green, and wilt deliciously into the rest of the soup as you eat.

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The following recipe is modified from a Jean-Georges base, courtesy of starchefs.com, with our own little fillips here and there.

Thai Coconut Noodle Soup with Panko-Crusted Chicken

First part:
1/2 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 chili, chopped (use whatever heat level you like)
1 knob of ginger, chopped
1 tsp galangal
1 stalk of lemongrass, chopped into smaller sticks and smashed (I used the back of my knife for the smashing bit, and would highly recommend tying these up in cheesecloth for removal later.)
1 tsp red Thai curry paste
4 cups chicken broth

Second part:
1/2 package rice vermicelli noodles
2 cups coconut milk
12 shiitake mushroom caps, sliced
Fish sauce (nam pla) to taste
2 Tbsp (or thereabouts) lime juice
4 chicken thighs
1 egg
Panko bread crumbs
Cilantro, chopped
Scallions, sliced

  1. Sweat the onion, garlic, chili, ginger, galangal, lemongrass, and curry paste in oil (I used a nice green olive oil plus a pat of butter, although strictly speaking I should have opted for peanut) for 5 to 10 minutes, or until everything gets soft and melty.
  2. Add the chicken broth, bring to a boil, and simmer for half an hour.
  3. You can hold the soup at this point until you’re getting ready to serve — I had it on the back burner for an hour or two — or just go ahead with the next step right away if you like.
  4. Beat the egg, and dip the chicken thighs into it, followed by a coating of the panko crumbs.
  5. Another dollop of oil in a sturdy skillet on high heat. Lay down the chicken, and cook through — about five minutes per side. I always give myself a little extra time in case they need a few more minutes.
  6. Bring the soup back to a simmer if you’ve dropped it to a back burner. Drop in the noodles — they don’t need more than a minute or two. Be sure to add these before the coconut milk — the noodles suck up a lot of liquid, and you’ll want to replenish with the coconut after the noodles have done their thing.
  7. Add the shiitakes and the coconut milk. Sprinkle in the fish sauce — a few drops will do, but add to taste. Same with the lime juice: start with a tablespoon or two, add a little more if you don’t taste that bright thread of citrus backing up the cream of the coconut.
  8. Simmer for another minute, and dish up into four bowls.
  9. Slice the chicken into strips and lay on top of the lovely pillow your noodles have created. Toss a light handful of scallions and cilantro on top, and serve.

Northern Comfort: Parmesan Polenta with Mushroom Fricassee and Poached Eggs

I love comfort food. I love the idea of comfort food, the notion that food has the power to alter a black mood or a broken heart, or fortify a soul that feels too weary to go on. I love that it underlines and adds an exclamation point to the concept that food is love, or can be. I love that sometimes, it’s the only thing that can be counted on to go right in the midst of a maelstrom of wrong.

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I bring this up because it’s been, to put it simply, an absolutely TERRIBLE week. It has been the kind of week that comfort food was made for, and believe me when I tell you that when I got home last night, there was no fucking around to be had with the kind of comfort I was determined to dish up. I took a two-pronged approach: I wanted the food to be soft and gentle, and I wanted it to contain insane amounts of butter and cream. After much hemming and hawing, I decided to use a recipe that Maggie recommended–polenta, buttery and creamy and studded with a fistful of fresh grated parmesan; served with a luscious mushroom fricassee and topped with poached eggs. Soft and forgiving; gentle but very very alive.

In short, it was EXACTLY what I needed. And, okay. it wasn’t exactly fast, and it wasn’t entirely simple (polenta, my friends, is a more complicated art than you’d think), but it was comfort in its purest form, at least for me. Because, you see, the comfort comes from more than just the food–it’s the ritual of preparation; the time spent at the stove in my small, warm kitchen; the challenge of making it right; the act of sharing it with someone I care about very much. The pleasure of setting aside some time that belongs exclusively to me, with very real challenges and very tangible rewards.

It’s about giving the finger to the hard angles of 21st century life and enjoying something unabashedly slow, calm, and soft. And full of butter.

Continue reading…

More Pizza: A Few Toppings

I don’t have exact measurements for you today, or much of a method beyond what I mentioned earlier in the week, but I wanted to share two more pizzas we made and loved.

The first was more or less a margherita…a smear of sauce, a few coins of fresh mozzarella, and a scattering of onions and red chilies. Throw fresh basil on after you remove it from the oven so it doesn’t scorch and you get the full flavor.

Nothing wrong with a classic. But at some level, the point of making pizza at home is to experiment with toppings, to put things on your pizza that you might not be able to get at your local pizza joint.

Hypothetically, if you happen upon the mushroom man at the farmer’s market, and he happens to have cute little half-pints of fresh chanterelles, you should probably pick them up. Buy an ear of corn, too, and when you get home, slice the mushrooms up a bit and sauté them. In butter. We’re not messing around. When they’re nicely cooked, add the kernels cut from the raw ear of corn and remove from the heat.

After you’ve spread out your dough into a nice round, thin circle, brush with a little garlic oil, then add your mushrooms and corn, sprinkling with fresh goat cheese, thyme leaves, pepper, and a little parmesan. Cook until the crust is crispy, which melts the cheese and roasts the corn a little.

Three pizzas in two days? “But Maggie,” you say, “isn’t that a lot of pizza?”

Oh, that’s not even the beginning. Shiv will take care of you next week—I’m off to Italy!



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