Monday, August 3, 2015

Winner, Winner, Mushroom Dinner
What’s cooking? A Blender Winner and Pasta with Wild Mushroom Sauce

Before I get into the recipe of the day, I want to announce the winner of the Hamilton Beach Wave~Action Blender. I also want to thank all of you who left comments and stopped by to read about my Cool Green Soup and the wonderful smoothie I made with my own Hamilton Beach blender.

So, without further ado, the winner is...

Congratulations, Rana! I’ll be contacting you separately to get an address for the Hamilton Beach people to send your prize.

* * *

Not everything I find at the farmers’ market is green or red or yellow, though just thinking about what shows up in those colors makes me smile. I recently stopped by one of the organic stands where they stock mushrooms from surrounding farms. These mushrooms were so beautiful – plump, reasonably clean, and mostly unmarred (really, sometimes the ’shrooms you find at the grocery store look like they grew under the log, not on top) – that I could hardly wait to get them home. For a light, healthy summer entrée, you really can’t beat pasta with sautéed mushrooms and a sprinkling of fresh parsley. Add a salad, some toasted crusty bread, a little fruit sorbet for dessert, and a nice bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, and I’ll be right over.

For this dish, I picked a combination of crimini mushrooms and shiitakes. With mushrooms, you can spend a lot of money without trying, but it’s not necessary to do so, especially if you just want to get a decent dinner on the table. Those two varieties I chose aren’t much more expensive than white button mushrooms and they have worlds more flavor – which is important when that’s pretty much all that’s on the plate.

Crimini (also sometimes spelled “cremini”) look like white button mushrooms but have a slightly earthier flavor. Think of them as baby portabella mushrooms, because, well, that’s what they are.

Shiitakes are among the most flavorful mushrooms, with a meaty texture and strong earthy, woodsy flavors. They’re cultivated throughout Asia and found in many Asian recipes. Shiitakes are high-protein mushrooms, rich in potassium, niacin and B vitamins, calcium, magne-sium and phosphorus. They have natural antiviral and immunity-boosting properties and are used nutritionally to fight viruses, lower cholesterol, and regulate blood pressure. They’re even said to be good for your skin. So unless you just don’t like mushrooms, these should be regulars on your table.

Kitchen Goddess notes on buying, storing, and cleaning mushrooms:
1. Buy mushrooms with a plump, smooth but dry skin. No major blemishes or slimy spots. A closed “veil” (that part under the cap) will produce a more delicate flavor; an open “veil” will yield richer flavor.
2. Store mushrooms in the fridge, preferably in a paper bag, where they’ll last a week or more. DO NOT RINSE THEM until you’re ready to cook.
3. To clean mushrooms, set a colander with relatively large perforations into a large bowl of water. Put the mushrooms into the colander and swish them around energetically to loosen the dirt, then lift the colander out of the water, leaving behind the debris. Working quickly, turn the mushrooms out onto tea towels and lightly rub or pat them clean/dry with paper towels or another tea towel. Mushrooms should spend the least possible time in water.

So, now that you’re ready,...

Pasta with Wild Mushroom Sauce

Inspired by a recipe in Gourmet magazine, September, 2006.
(You can choose to use only white or cremini mushrooms; if you do so, just change the name of this dish to “Pasta with Fresh Mushroom Sauce.”)

Please note that the pasta/mushroom quantities for this recipe have been revised since the original posting. I don't know what I was thinking, but you can be sure it is better now.

Serves 6 as first course, 4 as entrée.

8-10 ounces linguine (or spaghetti or fettuccini)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons canola oil (or vegetable oil, or grapeseed oil)
10 ounces large fresh crimini mushrooms, thickly sliced (¼ inch)
8 ounces medium-to-large fresh shiitake mushrooms or a mix of fresh wild mushrooms, thickly sliced (¼ inch)
2 tablespoons dry sherry (or red wine or white wine – lots of flexibility here)
1 large clove garlic, minced
2-3 tablespoons diced shallots (or spring onions)
zest of 1 lemon
½ teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leafed parsley
Finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for topping

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling, well salted water until al dente.

In a large skillet, sauté the mushrooms in the oil and butter. Kitchen Goddess note on technique here: It is easy to screw up sautéed mushrooms. Also easy to do it right, as long as you are careful that (1) the mushrooms should be dry; and (2) you get the oil and butter hot enough that the butter foams and then subsides before you add the mushrooms. (Using a mix of oil and butter allows the fat to get even hotter than with butter alone.) Then (3) toss the mushrooms in the hot fat for 4-5 minutes, during which time they’ll absorb all the fat. Continue to cook them, stirring, for another 2-3 minutes, when they’ll release some of that fat and brown.

For this preparation, you may want to sauté the mushrooms in two batches, using half the butter and oil with each batch. If you do, add the first batch back into the skillet once the second batch is browned.

Now, reduce the heat slightly on the skillet. Add the sherry (or wine), the garlic, and the shallots, and stir to combine with the mushrooms. As the sherry boils, scrape up any bits of browned butter and mushroom from the bottom of the skillet, stirring constantly.

Before you drain the pasta, reserve ½ cup of cooking water. Drain the pasta and add it to the mushrooms. Stir to combine. Add the reserved pasta water a little at a time, to bring the mixture to a texture that you like.

Stir in the lemon zest, the lemon juice, and the parsley. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.


  1. Oh! This looks soooooo tasty!
    Eileen in Atlanta

    1. It was marvelous, Eileen. So much so that I started wanting to cook it all over again...