Maybe this whole locavore thing isn't such a bad idea. You know, the thought that you should get most of your food from within a certain small radius around your immediate community. I came to this conclusion as I was sitting at the wine shack at the end of the day fucking around on the computer, or as I like to call it, doing some important "internet research". Walking through the door is my friend Kate bearing bags of just gathered mushroomey goodness. AND she's in a sharing mood! It seems she and her friend Andrea were up in the woods about 40 minutes out of town gathering early season chanterelles. By the way, I can't even tell you how cool it is to live in a place where just outside of town you can gather incredible wild mushrooms! Anyway, when they got to her secret gathering spot (and if you didn't know, mushroomers are notoriously secretive types about their favored hunting grounds. Ask them and you get the "I'd tell you but then I'd have to kill you" look) and as she was opening her car door, she literally looked down and saw this GIANT cauliflower mushroom right next to the car. That's just a small piece of it she gave me in the top pic.
Now earlier in the day when I was thinking about dinner I had halibut with remoulade in mind. But when someone throws this kind of bounty down in front of you, you bet your ass mushrooms were suddenly going to appear on tonight's menu! I mean, what sounded better last night: watching Barack and John arguing like schoolgirls while they try to impress someone named Joe the Plumber or playing with my new mushrooms? Yeah, that's what I thought, too! With something this fresh...I mean it had literally been in the woods about 60 minutes earlier...you don't fuck around with it. Simple is definitely better. My first thought was risotto, then the siren song of pasta started to sound even better. Something where you could fill up your senses with the full, glorious, unadulterated aromas and flavors. I had made this pasta a couple of years ago, and had wanted to remake it with a couple of tweaks...which means I really could have done better. This was the perfect opportunity. And so it was, and this dish absolutely nailed it. Sautéed in a little butter and olive oil, with onion, a little thyme and parsley, a splash of cream, it was absolutely stellar. One of those things with each bite you are swooning, like tasting nature. Really crazy stuff!
These mushrooms were so fresh they released a lot of liquid, but rather than boiling it off as some recipes call for, I let it be part of the sauce. I mean it was like built in mushroom stock (pic at left), especially infused with the butter, olive oil, and onion flavors. Incredible!
Thanks for sharing Kate...your generosity was much appreciated at our dinner table!
To drink with it I opened a bottle of what in my semi-informed opinion is one of the two best American pinot noirs made, a 2002 Thomas "Dundee Hills" Pinot Noir. More on that tomorrow, I promise! Any good, earthy red would work. A Barbera from Italy's Piedmont would also have been a nice choice. Just nothing too heavy, like a big cabernet or syrah, which would have overwhelmed the rich yet delicate flavors of the mushrooms.
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Wild Mushroom Pasta
an eat.drink.think. original
3/4 cup diced onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 to 1 pound mixed wild mushrooms sliced and chopped into not too small pieces
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 pound dry pasta
salt and freshly ground black pepper
parmagiano-reggiano for sprinkling
heat 1 tablespoons oil and 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat in large sauté pan. When hot, add onions, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and sauté until soft, about 6-8 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minutes more. Add mushrooms and sauté until softened, about 8 minutes. While mushrooms are sautéing start pasta water. Turn heat under mushrooms down to low and add heavy cream. Grind in a bit of fresh pepper, stir, and bring to a boil. Gently stir for one minute, then turn heat to lowest setting. I think letting this sit in the pan at low heat while the pasta cooks helps the flavors of the onions, mushrooms, thyme and cream come together. When pasta is done, drain, add to mushroom mix. Add parsley, saving some for garnish. Adjust salt and pepper, plate, sprinkle a small amount of parsley on top, and serve immediately. Pass grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, and enjoy!