Although I do like mushrooms, for some reason I don’t cook with them a lot, except for the porcini I must have in my favorite risotto recipe.
I don’t seem to have jumped on the Portobello mushroom bandwagon either, although I used to grill them at home occasionally, after a dip in teriyaki sauce. But there is an oft-neglected step here – I always cleaned them by flipping them over and gently scraping off the gills. Sadly, in most restaurants, that isn’t the way they’re prepped, instead the gills are left on, and they taste muddy and dirty to me. (This is not an issue with other, smaller mushrooms varieties, of course.)
Anyhow, lately I seem to have mushrooms on my mind (maybe these Brothers Moon dinners are why?), so have recently made a rich beef/mushroom/barley soup (really more like a stew), and a chicken/leek/mushroom strata. I used mixed wild and Baby Bella mushrooms for the soup, and shiitakes for the strata.
For the soup, I consulted several sources and in the end did my usual mash up of ingredients and process. The two recipes I ended up using were both from Epicurious.com – I have the app on my phone and tablet, and it comes in so handy in the market, when I get a sudden inspiration. (I keep my grocery lists on my phone, too, using an app from outofmilk.com.) The recipe links are here:
I used some flanken beef from Mrs. Green’s, the new natural market in Princeton Junction, and (when I realized I might want a little more beef), some boneless short rib meat from Whole Food’s excellent butcher counter. I browned the meat, and added stock, and simmered that for about an hour with some reconstituted dried wild mushrooms (and their soaking liquid), until the meat fell off the bones (which I removed). Then I sautéed mirepoix and the fresh mushrooms, and added that to the beef with the pearl barley. Simmered it all for another 45 or so minutes, until the barley was done. The photos are below; one of the pot after I’d added the barley, and it just came back to the simmer, and the other at the table:
Shortly after making the soup, I saw a recipe for Chicken, Leek, and Mushroom Strata in my SeriousEats.com e-Newsletter. I am a big fan of stratas, the layered bread and cheese “soufflé” you put together ahead of time, then bake for brunch or whatever. (In my case, dinner.) The variations are endless, and it’s a great dish for entertaining. I cut down on the quantities in the recipe by about a third, to fit it in a deep 9×9-inch dish (maybe that is 2-quarts?).
I also cut some of the fat, as the recipe, as given, is extremely rich. I had half and half to use up, so used half that, and half 2% milk, since that’s what I had on hand. And the eggs…seriously, 3 eggs plus 5 yolks? I used 2 whole eggs and about 2 eggs worth of some egg substitute. I don’t use egg substitute often, but thought I’d take a chance on using some in this recipe. (I’m looking at you doc!) I used regular full-fat cheese, however, and even put some thin slices of Gruyere (that I needed to use) on top, because I thought that would be a good match to the other ingredients. Next time I might completely ditch the cheddar, an awkward choice to begin with, and use all Gruyere or Swiss. Or Fontina. The little bit of white wine in the recipe really carried the flavor in the finished product, so I recommend keeping that. It made the dish taste rather French, which is what made me want to use the other cheeses. Oh, and the Parmesan, that was the real deal.
Judging from the liquid in the bottom of the baking dish after I served up some, maybe I needed a tad more bread, or a tad less liquid, but I suspect that when I go to use leftovers later on this evening, the dish will have re-absorbed that liquid. I put it together in the late morning, and let it soak in the fridge until about 5:15pm. Then I let it come (almost) to room temperature, and put it into the oven about 6:00pm, for 45 minutes, per directions.