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Archive for the ‘mushrooms’ Tag

Sautéed shiitakes for the perfect ski weekend

I’m writing this blog post remotely, from my brother’s house in Vermont. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen the amazing snow conditions we’ve had this weekend. The night before I arrived, the ski gods delivered a snow storm that covered the mountains with about 15″ of fresh powder. It was perfect timing! All the evergreens were covered in snow. The views from the chairlifts were stunning. I spent all day Friday and Saturday skiing. My body is sore, but it’s the good kind of sore. The satisfying kind. And when your body is aching and you don’t want to move a muscle, you should have simple and delicious recipes in your back pocket. Because no amount of aching is reason not to eat well.

15″ of fresh powder
fresh powder
Vermont evergreens
Vermont evergreens
this view <3
this view

I grew up not liking mushrooms. Something about the texture and flavor didn’t appeal to me. It probably didn’t help that in school we learned that mushrooms are a type of fungus. I was missing out. At one point, my taste buds had a revelation and now I can’t get enough! My favorite preparation for most kinds of mushrooms is sautéed in a bit of butter, with minced garlic, fresh thyme (or in this case leftover marjoram from Melissa Clark’s Tarragon Chicken), and finished with a splash of vermouth. If you don’t have vermouth, you can substitute a dry white wine.

mise en place
mise en place

The preparation is simple. If you start off with great quality fresh mushrooms, you don’t have to do much to them. I got these beautiful shiitakes from my local farmers market in Baltimore. Shiitakes are famous for their wonderful meaty texture and an earthy and slightly smokey flavor profile. They’re great for a hearty side.

mushroom prep
mushroom prep

You don’t want to rinse fresh mushrooms under water. They’ll inevitably absorb some of that water, which will make it more difficult to achieve a nice sear on the surface. Searing mushrooms triggers the Maillard reaction, which helps draw out the rich, smokey, and earthy flavors of the shiitake mushrooms. Shiitake stems can be tough. If the mushroom is big or the stem is particularly dry, I recommend cutting it off. If the stems are small and feel tender to the touch, I generally leave them on and only cut the tip, where the mushroom was attached to the soil.

garlic & marjoram
garlic and marjoram
light brown garlic
light brown garlic

This step is important. If you look away for one second, you run the risk of burning the garlic, which is no good. You can’t recover from burnt garlic. If that happens to you, toss out the garlic, wipe the pan, and start over. As the first specks of garlic barely begin to turn golden brown, you want to add the mushrooms and toss them in the garlic butter. The mushrooms will absorb all that garlic-infused butter, which is what you want. You also want to hold off on seasoning the mushrooms at this point. Adding salt will draw out the moisture of the mushrooms, which will make it more difficult to get a nice sear on the surface.

a splash of vermouth
a splash of vermouth
sautéed shiitake mushrooms
a splash of vermouth

Sauteed Shiitake Mushrooms with Vermouth

yields ~4 appetizer servings


  • 1 lb fresh shiitake mushrooms
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bunch fresh marjoram, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbsp vermouth
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Putting them all together

  1. With a sharp knife, remove any tough stems from the larger shiitake mushrooms. With a damp paper towel, wipe any specks of dirt from the surfaces.
  2. In a large skillet over medium low heat add butter, olive oil, and garlic.
  3. Cook the garlic until barely golden brown and add the shiitake mushrooms. Coat the mushrooms in the garlic-infused butter then allow them to sear by not stirring too frequently.
  4. Add the chopped marjoram, the vermouth, and season with salt. Stir to mix everything together and enjoy.


Boeuf Bourguignon: an homage to Julia Child

Do you remember the game where you get to name one person, dead or alive, to hang out with for a day? If I were to play that game right now, I would chose Julia Child, and the first thing I would tell her is thank you. Then I would hug her, if that’s allowed.

Since that’s only a game, however, I thought I’d express my gratitude to the great Julia Child in a blog post hoping that in some cosmic and mysterious way she’ll be reading from wherever she is; probably in a version of culinary paradise where she has more duck fat and copper pots than any mortal would know what to do with.

The idea for wanting to thank Julia started last week when I decided to make her recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon. It made sense. The sky had been gray for over a week, and continues to stay that way, which makes me wonder if we’ll ever reach spring, but that’s beside the point. The weather was simply an instigator in this chain of events, maybe even orchestrated by Julia herself (that would be funny). In French mathematics, you see, Boeuf Bourginioun equals classic comfort food — the wool socks of French cuisine. It’s a tough cut of meat braised in a full-bodied red wine for hours until it begins to fall apart and your entire house takes on the scent of a cozy French bistro on a rainy Friday evening.

For the record, this is the first time I’ve made anything of Julia’s. To me, this was a revelation. Her recipe was divided neatly into different sections so as to make the entire process of cooking French food appear less daunting. This is one of the things Julia was known for: she made French food accessible, if not easy. I had heard this, but was never fully convinced anyone could make something like Boeuf Bourguignon seem simple. French food, I thought, had to be complicated. I also noticed that, stylistically, Julia wrote her recipes in narrative form, and included the ingredients along the sidebar, in order of appearance. Almost as if she were directing a movie and was crediting her cast members — the mushrooms, beef, parsley — for their outstanding performance.

I remember re-reading sections of the recipe thinking that I had missed something. While the recipe did have plenty of steps, they were all fairly basic. Sear the meat; brown the vegetables. These were all things I had done before. After I read the recipe a couple more times to make sure I wasn’t going to be ambushed by a militia of French cooking terms half-way through, I started to prepare the ingredients for my mise en place shot.

mise en place

If there’s one thing I have learned from cooking, and I’m pretty sure Julia would agree, it would be the importance of mise en place, or having everything in place. I include these photos on my blog for different reasons; one of them is so that I can maintain a certain degree of order in my kitchen. It took me a while to get into this habit, but it has helped me tremendously. A less pragmatic reason for why I do mise en place is because, like Julia, I like to highlight the ingredients that I use. It’s my quirky way of crediting the ingredients that make up the dishes on my blog.

give your beef room to sear

Julia is very clear about this step: there has to be enough room for the pieces of meat to sear in the bacon fat in order to get a nice crust — otherwise the meat would steam and the dish would be ruined. This was very important, so I did it in three batches.

now it’s turn for the veggies

The onions and carrots got the same treatment: a good five to seven minutes in bacon fat. In France, bacon fat, or more accurately, pork fat called lardon, is synonymous with flavor. If you have access to lardon from a local butcher, I would go with that, otherwise, bacon seemed to do a pretty good job if you don’t mind the subtle smokey undertone that it adds to the dish. I didn’t mind one bit. Once the onions and carrots develop a golden brown color you’ll want to pour out the bacon fat.

saute the onions and mushrooms sepeartely

To make things go quicker, I sauteed pearl onions and crimini mushrooms in a separate pan. These ingredients also need room to sear so they develop a golden brown color.

cover everything in red wine

Once the meat is seared and the vegetables have been browned, you’ll want to add everything back to the original dutch oven, and submerge its contents in red-wine. The French are masters at this; make sure, however, to save at least one glass for yourself.

Boeuf Bourguignon

Although the recipe says to braise the beef for three to four hours in a low oven, I actually set my oven cook-time to four hours and went to sleep. I woke up seven hours later, fully rested, to the most heavenly smell. I’m sure Julia would’ve been proud.

In the words of the great chef herself, bon appétit!

Boeuf Bourguignon

yields approx. 6 servings

Recipe adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child


  • 6 oz bacon
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 lbs chuck, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 4 cups red wine, full-bodied young wine
  • 1-2 cups beef stock
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1/2 tsp thyme, dried
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 18-24 small white onions
  • 1 lb mushrooms, quartered
  • 3 sprigs of thyme
  • 3 sprigs of flat leaf parsley

Putting them all together

  1. Cut the bacon into thin sticks (1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long) and simmer in water for 10 minutes. Drain and pat dry.
  2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  3. Sauté the bacon in olive oil for a couple of minutes or until lightly browned. Set aside.
  4. Reheat the bacon fat until it is almost smoking. In the meantime, pat your cubes of beef dry so you can get a good sear.
  5. Making sure not to overcrowd the pan, sear the beef cubes on all sides, in separate batches if necessary.
  6. Brown the sliced onions and carrots in the same bacon fat and then discard the bacon fat.
  7. Peel the skins off the pearl onions. They peel relatively easily if you submerge them in boiling water for 30 seconds and then shock them in ice water. Be sure to pat the onions dry.
  8. Heat 2 tbsp of butter in a large saute pan and cook the pearl onions until golden brown, then set them aside.
  9. Add the remaining 2 tbsp of butter to the saute pan and sear the quartered mushrooms, making sure not to overcrowd the pan.
  10. Make a bouquet garni (bouquet of herbs) by tying together the sprigs of parsley and thyme together with butchers twine. This will help you fish them out in the end.
  11. Slice the head of garlic cross-wise so as to reveal the midsection of all the cloves.
  12. Return the beef, bacon, sliced onions and carrots to the pot. Sprinkle in the flour and lightly toss to distribute the flour.
  13. Set the uncovered dutch oven in the middle position of the pre-heated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to the oven for 4 more minutes.
  14. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.
  15. Add the pearl onions and mushrooms, bouquet garni, sliced head of garlic, tomato paste, thyme, salt and pepper to the pot. Pour in the red wine and add enough beef stock so that all the contents in the pot are barely covered — this will prevent the meat from drying in the oven.
  16. Cover the dutch oven with a lid and return it to the oven (at the reduced temperature) to braise for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
  17. The meat is done when you can pull it apart with a fork with very little effort.


I’ve caught the Spanish bug

Spanish tapas have been on my mind ever since I made those croquetas the other day. They were a hit in the house and the leftovers treated me well (at least while they lasted). Once the last croqueta was gone though, my stomach went into what I’ve come to call, “pregnant woman mode.” Pregnant women may claim to have it bad, but a foodie-craving is no joking matter. I wanted more tapas, stat.

mise en place
mise en place

Champiñones al ajillo is exactly what I needed – literally garlic mushrooms. I set aside this weekend to be my relax/be-super-lazy weekend and so anything that took more than 10 minutes to make was out of the question. These mushrooms met all my stringent criteria, and the heaping mound of garlic only added to their appeal. If you don’t have the 10 5 minutes it takes to put these together, but you happen to be walking around Spain, you’re in luck. Any reputable tapas bar will gladly serve you up a plate of these mushrooms; although, if you want to blend in more with the locals, call them champis and don’t use their full name, champiñones al ajillo.

Spanish paprika
Spanish paprika

Recipes for this classic Spanish tapas will vary. Some will call for freshly squeezed lemon juice, while others want bread crumbs, but none of them leave out the Spanish paprika – a quintessential ingredient in Spanish cuisine. You can find this paprika in three varieties: sweet, smoked or spicy, but these champis pair perfectly with the spicy variation, which also happens to be my favorite. 

mushrooms cooked in lots and lots of garlic
champis al ajillo

From raw ingredients to what you see above takes no more than five minutes. If you don’t have Spanish sherry, a feasible substitute would be some marsala wine, but obviously, it won’t produce the same flavor. On the topic of substitutions, you can also substitute the mushrooms for some shrimp and you’ll end up with another classic Spanish tapas, gambas al ajillo.

champiñones al ajillo
champis al ajillo

OK, I’ve been rambling for way too long. You could’ve probably made two batches of these already but I’ve kept you, yet again. Go make some and enjoy!

Champiñones al Ajillo

serves approx. 6-8 people


  • 1 lb button mushrooms, quartered
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp Spanish paprika, spicy
  • 2 tbsp parsley, chopped
  • 3-4 tbsp olive oil, extra virgin
  • 1/4 cup Spanish sherry
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Putting them all together

  1. Heat up olive oil, garlic, and paprika in a large skillet.
  2. Once it starts to sizzle, add the quartered mushrooms and sauté for 3-4 minutes.
  3. Deglaze the pan with the dry sherry and cook until most of the liquid has reduced into more of a sauce. 
  4. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Toss with chopped parsley and serve.

notes: OK, this recipe might take all of 8 minutes, but I still claim they’re well-spent. 


anything wine-braised goes

It’s getting close to graduation and I can’t get myself to start packing all my food stuff for the big move this Sunday. Each time I told myself to focus and pack, my ADD kicked into high gear and the cardboard boxes and bubble wrap took a back seat to my distractions. Yesterday I decided to procrastinate with good taste and make wine-braised mushrooms with a goat cheese and mascarpone topping. What, what? I still have 4 more days until the parental unit gets here and starts complaining about how unproductive I’ve been this past week.

mise en place
mise en place

Anna, my host mom from Italy (and my friend Francesco’s actual mom), came a week early to spend time in Ithaca before the big day. Since I’m a believer that not every dinner party has to be an 8-course, 20-guest ordeal, I called up Francesco and invited him and his mom over for some wine and appetizers. I made her biscotti recipe and whipped up a batch of my wine-braised mushroom cups.

simple/cute puff pastry cups
making puff pastry cups

Puff pastry is key for this appetizer; and if you haven’t already discovered Foodbeam, Fanny offers a brilliant step-by-step crash course on this classic French dough. Can you make do using the store-bought stuff? I guess. But only if your foodie conscience actually allows you to pick up the pre-packaged dough that has been sitting in the frozen isle of your local grocery store for who knows how long and has been stamped with a generic 2-year window of expiration… sigh.

Braising the mushrooms is a walk in the park. All you have to do is sauté them over high heat, deglaze the pan with balsamic vinegar and red wine, and lower the heat until most of the liquid evaporates.

Wine-Braised Mushroom Cups
Wine-Braised Mushroom Cups

Wine-Braised Mushroom Cups

(yields approx. 24 cups)


  • 1 lb. crimini mushrooms, de-stemmed
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp. fresh thyme
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 300 ml wine (1 small glass)
  • 300 g. puff pastry
  • 150 g. goat cheese
  • 100 g. mascarpone cheese
  • zest & juice of 1 lemon
  • chives, for garnish

Putting them all together

  1. Sauté mushrooms over high heat with butter, olive oil, thyme and garlic for about a few minutes until browned.
  2. Deglaze the pan with balsamic vinegar and wine and lower heat to medium until most of the liquid has evaporated (apprrox. 25 minutes) and set aside.
  3. Cut out circle rounds of puff pastry and bake in a mini muffin tin to make the individual cups (poke holes before baking to prevent excessive puffing).
  4. Mix the cheeses, lemon zest and lemon juice for the topping.
  5. Scoop a few mushrooms into each cup and top with the lemon-infused cheese mixture. Garnish with chopped chives and serve.


la dolce vita: sharing good food with friends and family
eating puff pastry mushroom cups