Monday, July 27, 2009

Mushrooms and Thyme are bestest friends

No kidding, mushrooms and thyme really play well together in terms of taste. One of our favorite recipes for dinner parties or pot lucks is "Big Pasta and Mushrooms". Its an adaptation of a recipe from Nigella Lawson that hits the flavor profiles, but in a smaller quantity (hers calls for 3 lbs of pasta) and without the fuss of making a bechamel sauce.

I'm inherently lazy and will take short cuts where appropriate. Canned cream of mushroom soup is the short cut here that saves a ton of time in prepping the dish.

For my version I kept the amount of mushrooms similar to what the original recipe called for. Why? Because I love freaking mushrooms and felt that my ratio gave you more of a sense of the mushroomy goodness than the original.

The mushrooms I chose were those that looked best when I went to the market on the day I made this batch. The type of mushroom you use isn't as important as getting the quantity right and using those that are freshest when you are in the market. You can even fudge with the weight as an extra ounce more or less won't hurt the final outcome.

Big Pasta and Mushrooms
  • 8 oz portobello caps sliced
  • 6 oz cremini mushrooms sliced
  • 3.5 oz oyster musroom sliced
  • 2 c loosely packed dried shitake mushrooms
  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme tied in a bundle - plus extra for garnish
  • nutmeg
  • 1 t herbed sea salt (regular sea salt can be substituted)
  • 1 t fresh ground black pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 c vermouth
  • boiling water
  • 1 1/2 c fresh grated Parmesan
  • 2 cans cream of mushroom soup
  • 4 c milk
  • 1 1/2 lbs large pasta (I used stuffing size rigatoni)
  • 1 1/4 c fresh chopped parsley
  • Preheat oven to 400F.

Put dried shitakes in a measuring cup and cover with boiling water. Allow to steep for at least 5 minutes. Put salted water on to boil for pasta. Cook pasta to "al dente".

In large sauce pot add butter and olive oil. Over medium heat melt butter and then add garlic and thyme bundle. Cook one minute. Add the sliced mushrooms and fresh cracked pepper. Using microplane add 10-12 good scrapes of nutmeg to the mushrooms. Cook 10-15 minutes stirring occasionally until they have released their moisture and the liquid has nearly evaporated.

Drain the shitakes, reserving liquid (should be about 1 cup). Add shitakes with the sea salt to the pan and cook 1 minute folding them in constantly until evenly distributed. Add vermouth, cook 2-3 minutes until absorbed by the mushrooms. Add the reserved shitake liquid and cook 5-7 minutes until nearly evaporated. Remove thyme twig bundle.

Add cream of mushroom soup, milk and 1 cup parsley to the mushroom mixture stir until soup is dissolved. In large mixing bowl add the cooked and drained pasta. Add the mushrooms and fold gently until well distributed. Sprinkle on 1 cup of Parmesan and fold until well distributed.

Pour into 12X17 baking dish. Sprinkle 1/2 c Parmesan across the top. Bake 30 minutes until parts are browned and crusty.

Remove from oven and garnish with 1/4 cup parsley and 6-8 thyme sprigs.

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