Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sweet Mushroom Love

Sweet mushroom love.  I do so wish I had made up that title.  Doesn't it sound sinfully good?  Believe me, it was.  Zach gets the credit.  He is second-in-command at Bull City Burger and Brewery and an amazing chef, as I recently found out.  It was the BFF's birthday and Seth, the big boss at BCBB where she works, and I conspired to pull off a surprise dinner for her.  I already knew that SG is a wonder in the kitchen.  He is my authority on all things culinary.  My role in this?  All I had to do was get her to the restaurant.  Am I smart or what?  
We started with a glass of sparkling wine, of course, and our amuse-bouche, a pre-appetizer meant to amuse your mouth:
Crisp Squash Blossom with House-made Ricotta
Charred Scallion Pesto

Our first course:
Newspaper Cucumber Slices with Tomato, Picked Red Onion
Pickled Snaps, Lemon Vinaigrette
(Is this not one of the most beautiful sights you have ever seen?)
Pork Fries with aïoli

Second course:
Black Squid Ink Tagliatelle with Brinkley Farms English Peas
Grana Americana
This was quite possibly the best dish I have ever eaten in my whole entire life.  No kidding.  I have been thinking about it ever since.
Third course:
Farmhand Foods Pied de Cochon with Brinkley Farms Arugula
Roasted Peach and Mustard Creme
Now, those of you less adventurous eaters should not get lost here, but that is pig's feet in French.  And totally delicious.  (The BFF said she wondered why Zach had some pig's feet lying around the restaurant...)  Crisy and very tasty.
Fourth course:
Porcini Dusted Pork Tenderloin
Roasted Shiitake Salad (aka Sweet Mushroom Love)
I am very afraid that the mushrooms do not get the love they deserve in this photo.  I ate it without even considering a photo.  Zach and Seth know how the BFF feels about mushrooms so they were very important here.
Fifth course (aka dessert):
Martha's Birthday Crème Brûlée
Vanilla, Black Pepper, and Ginger
Oops... it was really good.  I promise.  And pretty.  I am such a gourmande.  (Sometimes I think that is French for little piggy... at least it sounds better in French, n'est-ce pas?)
Seth matched wines to the dishes and even one his beers,  Honorable Bell's Big Brown Ale, with the pork.  The beer is named for our mayor, Bill Bell, a name I am partial to since it is my maiden name.  Mayor Bell would be proud of this marriage of flavors.
We had an amazing meal.  A truly lovely celebration.  Thank you so much, Seth and Zach.  I will eat for you anytime.

The week after the BFF's birthday, I found myself at home all alone (the Ex-Ex and high school grad son both at the beach) so I invited her over for dinner.  It was also the night of the Country Music Awards and since we both have a soft spot for handsome country singers, it seemed great timing for a girls' night.  Keeping with the mushroom theme, I made mushroom risotto.  When we were in Cinque Terre, Italy in 2008, she ordered this dish one night and hasn't stopped talking about it since.  I doubt mine held up to that memory, but I tried.  I chose (with help, of course!) Stephanini Il Selese Soave from Wine Authorities to go with the risotto.
I love making risotto.  I also love eating it.  I used Baby Bella, Cremini, and Shiitake mushrooms.  I wanted the earthy taste that is the reason to eat mushrooms in the first place, in my humble opinion.
We started with roasted vegetable tapenade and an ash-ripened goat cheese made by vermont creamery named bonne bouche.
It came in this cute little box--
I will probably keep the box forever.
I also made fried eggplant.  A friend in Asheville had it in a restaurant and asked the chef for his recipe.  It turned out quite good.  Slice the eggplant.  Soak it in milk overnight in the refrigerator.  Remove the slices from the milk, roll them in cornmeal (I used panko breadcrumbs instead), fry them in olive oil just until golden, throw on a dash of salt and serve warm.
I made pavlova for dessert because the BFF also loves meringue.
These two characters were our dates, I suppose.  Or the table decoration anyway.
And Picasso--
(They are finger puppets-- gifts from students this year.  Aren't they cute?)
We had a lovely evening.  The CMA fellows took a backseat to a girls' evening and good food.  Sorry, Blake.  I still love you.
And for my final mushroom endeavor, I made a fettucini dish with the leftovers.  I cooked them up in butter and olive oil and served them over the pasta with shredded parmesan-reggiano, sea salt and freshly ground pepper.   Delicious.  With a glass of Le P'tit Martin Côtes du Rhône red, I was very pleased with my experiment with the last of the mushrooms.
Sweet mushroom love.

Fresh Mushroom Risotto
(from Risotto: More Than 100 Recipes for the Classic Rice Dish of Northern Italy by Judith Barrett and Norma Wasserman)
Serves 4

3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
4 oz. shiitake or other wild mushrooms, stems removed, sliced (about 2 c.)
4 oz. cultivated white mushrooms, stems removed, sliced (about 1 c.)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c. Mascarpone cheese or heavy cream
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. chopped parsley
5 c. basic broth (vegetable or chicken)
1/2 c. dry white wine or broth
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. oil
1/3 c. finely minced onion
1 1/2 c. Arborio rice

Heat the butter in a small skillet over moderate heat.  When it begins to foam, add the mushrooms and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until they are soft.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Turn off heat and set aside.
Bring the broth to a steady simmer in a saucepan on top of the stove.
Heat the butter and oil in a heavy 4-qt. casserole over moderate heat.  Add the onion and sauté for 1-2 minutes, until it begins to soften, being careful not to brown it.
Add the rice to the soffritto; using a wooden spoon, stir for 1 minute, making sure all the grains are well coated.  Add the wine and stir until it is completely absorbed.  Begin to add the simmering broth, 1/2 c. at a time, stirring frequently.  Wait until each addition is almost completely absorbed before adding the next 1/2 c., reserving about 1/4 c. at add at the end.  Stir frequently to prevent sticking.
After approximately 18 minutes, when the rice is tender but still firm, add the reserved broth and the condimenti-- mushrooms, Mascarpone, Parmesan, and parsley-- and stir vigorously until the cheeses are melted and combined with the rice.  Serve immediately.

Bon appétit, les champignons!

1 comment:

the BFF said...

Thanks for making this birthday so extraordinary .... all my favorite things!