may 17, 2013
They were the biggest, fattest, meatiest shiitake mushrooms I had seen. So impressively massive, in fact, that I had to ask Teal Brooks of Pine Fork Farm if they were a particular type or new cultivar. Nope, she replied, they were standard issue, but perhaps the clean and clear conditions at her farm in Quinton, Virginia were responsible for their luscious largeness, or perhaps they were grown with love.
Seeing them piled high in her basket at the South of the James Farmer’s Market, I was filled with a simple longing for the comforts of my mother’s kitchen. My parents were not adventurous cooks, but they had a kid who liked to experiment. The day they arrived home with two books from the Round the World Cooking Library – one on French cooking, the other dedicated to German fare – was the day I upped my cooking game from routine and ordinary to challenging and exotic.
Our restaurant visits tended toward seafood houses at the beach, so dishes like chocolate mousse and coq au vin were novelties to my untrained kid aesthetic. From these thin volumes, I bravely tackled poulet braise en cocotte, Westerlander fish soup and potage crecy. My successes were countered by my epic failures, namely liver dumplings and braised cucumbers. Pages of these books are littered with my careful, pencilled teenage scrawl and they continue to provide present day creative motivation.
One recipe in “French Cooking” fascinated me : cepes sautes paysanne (sauteed mushrooms country style). Pictured are cepes, fist-sized brown orbs which grow in the forest near Bordeaux. Access to fresh mushrooms was rare in the supermarkets of my youth, and using the canned variety would have been an abomination. So I never got around to trying the recipe. Today, I add shallots and fresh parsley, omit bacon and add cream (although this is not a super creamy dish, for those who fret over creaminess). A tasty side dish on its own and a nice appetizer ladled over homemade diagonal baguette croutons, brushed with garlic scented olive oil and baked until crisp.
Fresh shiitakes from Pine Fork Farm called to me at the market that Saturday : now is the time to pay homage to a dish dreamed about years ago. This one’s for you, Mom. Thanks for the inspiration.
herbed shiitake mushrooms
recipe by Michele Humlan, The Good Eats Company
makes four servings
1 T unsalted butter
one large shallot, finely minced
1 pound large shiitake mushrooms, sliced thickly *
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 T fresh parsley, minced
fine sea salt – I like Baleine
finely ground white pepper
*cook’s note : if you cannot find locally grown shiitakes, the closest thing would be fresh flower mushrooms sold in Asian markets – they resemble puffy shiitakes
with crackled tops
- In heavy large saute pan, melt butter over medium low heat, add shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until shallots are soft but not browned, about 2 minutes.
- Add mushrooms, increase heat to high, and stir occasionally with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula (metal spoon may break up the slices) until they begin to wilt, about 4 minutes for large shiitakes, and less for smaller mushrooms.
- Add wine and stir briefly until most is absorbed, less than a minute.
- Add cream and stir occasionally until mixture is slightly thickened, about 1-2 more minutes.
- Add parsley, season to taste with salt and pepper and serve while warm.