A Short Cut to Mushrooms
I'm envious of many traits possessed by experienced cooks -- a light hand with pastry, an ease with carving (ahem), a deep imagination. I especially long for the instincts, described by so many food bloggers, for what ingredients mesh well with others. I want that awareness and intuition that leads the cook unerringly to the right combinations -- or, if not unerringly, at least frequently.
I know this takes time, experience, and practice. I'm cultivating patience, as best I can. (It's not normally listed among my virtues.) The point of this instinct, after all, is that it is in fact an instinct. I could memorize color-coded lists of which spices complement which dishes, and I suppose that would be helpful. But at the end of the day, I think I have to understand these things on a less mneumonic, more visceral level.
So I'm practicing. And I'm pleased to report, I had a flicker of intuition this evening.
I've been craving wild mushrooms since last Friday night, when I ordered a savory mix of mushrooms at a nameless restaurant in the West Village. (I'm sure the restaurant does actually have a name, but I have absolutely no idea what it is. I have no excuse.) The mushrooms were heaped atop a garlicky piece of toast and adorned with a lovely little fried egg. The combination was so, so good, the earthy mushrooms oozing intense woodsy flavor into the toast. I haven't been able to stop thinking about the dish. So I thought, hey, this doesn't seem all that complicated. I'll try to make it.
I found a recipe for wild mushroom saute on Epicurious, which was straightforward and had earned good reviews on the website. I had a few puzzled moments when told to finely chop the Italian parsley with a clove of garlic -- a few passes with the knife took care of the parsley, but I had to chase the garlic clove back and forth across the herbs, so I don't know how effective that was. Anyway. The mushrooms were sizzling on the stove, rendolent with garlic, when I thought -- hey -- don't I have some fresh thyme? Thyme with the mushrooms! Could it be an instinct??
I seized the moment (of thyme?), and, my goodness. I've never enjoyed a bowl of mushrooms more. I have hope!
Wild Mushroom Saute
Adapted from Epicurious
1/2 c. packed fresh Italian parsley
4 garlic cloves
5 T. extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
2 lb. assorted fresh wild mushrooms, quartered if large and halved if small
1 T. fresh lemon juice
6 sprigs fresh thyme
Finely chop 1/2 c. parsley with 1 garlic clove; set aside. Finely chop remaining cloves, and whisk together with 4 T. oil and 1/2 tsp salt in a large bowl. Add mushrooms and toss to coat.
Heat the remaining T. oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the mushrooms and saute until they're brown and tender, about 10 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and mix in parsley mixture and lemon juice. Strip the thyme sprigs and sprinkle the leaves over the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper.
These would make a fantastic side dish, or you can do what I did: toast thick slices of bread, spread lightly with butter, and spoon the mushroms over the toast. Top with one or two over-medium eggs and swoon.