Thursday, April 27, 2006

I’d Rather Smoke ‘Em Than Eat ‘Em

I wanted to use up the Shiitake mushrooms I had bought for dinner a few nights ago. I had also bought some Enoki mushrooms. But I don’t have a lot of recipes for them.

I’m not much of a mushroom person. I grew up on Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup. At least, I was served a lot of food with the slime in it. Mostly casseroles of some sort or another. But I refused to eat it. Stubborn like a brick wall. The grey goo with the tiny cubes of rubbery snot in it was more than I could stomach.

Or button mushrooms, boiled to death in some insipid casserole. Can’t eat ‘em.

And those caps filled with mystery stuffing that was all the rage some decades ago. No way that’s goin’ in my mouth!

So I never really developed a repertoire of mushroom recipes.

Of course, there were a lot of mushrooms in high school and college, but they didn’t necessarily have much nutritional value.

It wasn’t until many, many years later, when I tried morels, that it occurred to me that something that grows on death and is a step away from mold could taste good. Tentatively, I branched out a bit. Always avoiding anything particularly grey, or that might be even a bit slimy.

The enoki mushrooms are about as far from cream of mushroom soup as you can get, and seem OK to me. It took me longer to get to things like shiitake mushrooms. But I made it eventually.

So I found an interesting looking recipe for Risotto with Shiitake and Asparagus. Seemed like a good combination of flavors. And it’s asparagus season. Naturally, I changed the recipe a bit to suite my taste, and this is based on my basic risotto recipe. I pan roasted the asparagus and shiitake on high heat very briefly in olive oil with some garlic, and added that to the risotto rice. Wonderful flavor!

For the enoki mushrooms, I saw a picture of some wrapped in bacon and roasted in the oven. I didn’t want to use bacon (bikini season coming, I hear every day), so I opted for prosciutto. With some sage as well. I’ve never tried it, but the earthy mushroom and sage combination seemed good. And everything goes with prosciutto.

And it did go well. The roasting brought out a deep smoky sage flavor that cut through the saltiness of the prosciutto. The Enoki retained a wonderful crunch.

I didn't think the risotto would go over too well, as some here are not too adventurous, but it turned out much better than anticipated. This is definately on the list to make on a regular basis.

Prosciutto-wrapped Enoki with Sage

Enoki mushrooms (I don’t know how many I used, as I threw away the wrapper, but you need a small bundle for each slice of prosciutto)
8 slices prosciutto
16 sage leaves
olive oil

Heat oven to 450ºF.

Carefully rinse off mushrooms, and dry well. Drizzle mushrooms with olive oil.

Spread prosciutto slices out flat. Place a small bundle of mushrooms on one end, and lay 2 sage leaves on top. Roll the prosciutto up tightly and secure with toothpicks.

Place wraps in a baking dish on parchment paper, and roast in oven for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once. Remove when prosciutto is browned on both sides. Serve. Enjoy!

Risotto with Garlic Roasted Asparagus and Shiitake

2 bundles asparagus – approx. one pound, ends snapped off, and sliced on an angle into ¼ to ½ inch slices
1 pound shiitake, stems removed, sliced into this slices
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, minced
2-3 tbsp rice vinegar, or ½ cup white wine
550 grams arborio rice – about 2 cups
8 cups chicken stock
1 cup pecorino-romano cheese, grated
olive oil

Heat olive oil in a sauté pan till hot. Add garlic, and roast over high heat for 30 seconds. Add asparagus and shiitake slices, and roast over high heat, stirring frequently, until the asparagus just starts to soften, but is still crisp. Remove to a plate and reserve.

Heat broth in a pot until it just boils, and hold at a simmer.

Heat olive oil in a large, heavy pot. Add onion, and sauté over medium heat until onion is soft. Turn up heat, and add rice. Cook, stirring, until rice begins to turn translucent – 3-4 minutes. Turn down heat to medium. Add rice vinegar. Stir. Add about 1 cup of stock, stirring. When the stock is absorbed, add ½ cup stock, stirring. Continue adding stock ½ cup at a time, stirring frequently.

When rice is almost done (al dente), add asparagus and shiitake mixture. Fold in gently, with some additional broth. Continue to stir gently, adding broth ½ cup at a time until rice is just done. Add grated cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve. Enjoy!

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