Do you love mushrooms? I love mushrooms! I just did something amazing with mushrooms…let me back track a bit. I joined the Western Pennsylvania Mushroom club this month. I had been meaning to do it for the last several months immediately after I went on a mushroom walk with them. The walk was beautiful and I could not fathom exactly how many mushrooms there are hiding in plain sight. We did not find very many edible fungi on that walk, but I was assured that there were tons of edible mushrooms in the area.
I knew this already…I used to have morels growing in my back yard! I am planning to have that situation again soon. There are a lot of mushroom kits available for all kinds of mushrooms – morels, oyster (which can help control cholesterol), shiitake (which may be the most nutritious mushroom out there), crimini (which have important antioxidants and often have vitamin B12 on them as well as a bunch of immune boosting minerals) , hen of the woods (which are being studied for their cancer fighting compounds) and they are all terrific. I am planning a mushroom garden, I will let you know how that turns out. Back to the mushroom club…they asked me to do a talk for them at the November meeting which I was happy to do. They were most interested in some of my cooking techniques which I was happy to discuss in detail, but since I am a Certified Holistic Health Coach, I was also hell bent on providing some nutritional information and talk about medicinal use of mushrooms as well.
During the research I did for the talk I discovered that mushrooms were as good for you as they were delicious. There are currently several clinical trials going on exploring whether mushrooms have some positive effect on diseases like cancer and high cholesterol. It may be premature to announce that mushrooms can cure cancer, but it is clear that they have some beneficial effect. I will be writing more about the health benefits of mushrooms and other foods on our healthy living blog.
The recipe I did for them was a mushroom ragout…I was able to provide some new and good information so that my talk was not totally lame. I was provided with some lovely, foraged hen of the woods mushroom (which it turns out are very good for you and have some medicinal uses) that had been frozen during the summer which were terrific. I proceeded to discuss and demonstrate how I make my mushroom ragout which was very well received.
This lead me to make a mushroom ragout for Thanksgiving. The Monday after Thanksgiving was another pot luck dinner, for which I prepared a mushroom risotto using some of the left over mushroom ragout. When someone asked if I would give up the recipe I said “sure, but it will sound kind of crazy. I will put it on the blog.” The explanation went something like this…
Of course, I could not just buy some button mushrooms and let that be that. I went to the local wholesale purveyor and bought 15 pounds of mushroom: oyster, shiitake, and crimini. I did this for a reason beyond simple insanity…I wanted the mushroom essence. I sauteed the mushrooms, in batches, after they had been cleaned and chopped. Once the mushrooms began to release their liquor I removed them from the pot being very careful not to waste a drop of the precious essence, and then started the next batch. Once this was done I collected all of the liquid in a pot and placed it on the stove to reduce the essence, some Marsala wine, and some tomato paste to a light syrup finishing it with some fresh whole butter. I know this sounds like an absurd amount of work for one dish, but it was worth it; the amount of flavor you get from reducing the mushroom essence is amazing…if you ever get 15 pounds of mushrooms, try this.
Here is the original recipe for the mushroom talk, it will produce an excellent flavor just a little less intense than that of the Thanksgiving version. The resulting ragout can be served as is or used in another recipe like a mushroom risotto, Enjoy!
4 Tbsp clarified butter or good oil
2 shallots, peeled and minced
1 lb mixed mushrooms (wild if you have them – cultivated if you must)
¼ cup dry wine or dry fortified wine ( such as sherry, Madeira, Port or Marsala)
¼ cup good stock or mushroom broth
2 Tbsp tomato puree
Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced
Fresh whole butter (optional)
Heat the sauté pan until you can feel the heat coming through the pan with your hand placed above the surface of the pan, add the oil. Add the minced shallots and sauté for a few seconds until they begin to turn translucent. Add the mushrooms, allowing them to remain in place for a few minutes until they begin to caramelize. Gently shake the pan to get the mushrooms “jumping”. Add the wine. Allow the liquid to reduce a bit before adding the stock and the tomato. Stir this mixture until it is well combined with the mushrooms then allow it to reduce by about half. Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper to taste, add the parsley and stir in the butter. Serve immediately, save the leftovers for a great risotto!