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pasta with sauteed mushrooms and thyme

September 17, 2010

Like every other kid in the history of ever, I hated mushrooms. I knew they were good for me, so they must’ve been a vegetable. But the texture was way too off to be a vegetable—they were almost meaty. But they didn’t taste like meat. And they didn’t taste like a vegetable, either. They kind of just tasted like dirt.


But then, some time in the past year or so, I realized that I still hated them, despite the fact that I hadn’t actually tasted one since probably kindergarten—I was still picking around them whenever my dinner included them, even though I didn’t really know what they tasted like. So I tried one, just in case, and…well, they’re actually good! Who knew?


This was my first time trying/making a dish where mushrooms were the main ingredient, pretty much the only flavor—the make-it-or-break-it test for my newfound love. There weren’t any cheeses or meats on top of a pizza, no marination and kebab-ing with veggies and fish to distract from any unpleasantness.


[My mom has this great chicken base junk, which is a jar of stuff that you mix with water to turn into chicken stock and is totally more convenient than always keeping cans of soup on hand…but I still find it totally weird that this unappetizing lump of yellow turns into chicken soup eventually.]
And you know, it was still pretty yummy. For a few of the last bites, I felt like I was almost getting tired of the mushroom taste and wanted something else, but I think that was just my residual six-year-old self speaking. The sauce itself was nice and mellow, a backdrop for the rich, sauteed (in a liiiittle bit of fat) mushrooms.


The only thing I would change results from my own mistake alone. I tried to pull one over on Cook’s Illustrated and buy pre-sliced shiitakes and refuse to remove the stems, instead just dumping the containers straight into the pan. I mean, shiitake stems can’t be too different from cremini stems, right? And I’ve never had a problem with those, so…I’m sure it saved me a whole two minutes, but shiitake stems are weird, man! They’re somehow woody and chewy at the same time, plus they kind of look like white worms when they’re cooked. Bleh. Next time, I’ll take the extra step and take off the stems.


As an added bonus, this recipe allowed me to take this Still Life with Heavy Cream, Pasta, and Dinnertime Mimosa.

Pasta with Sauteed Mushrooms and Thyme
Ingredients:
1 lb. farfalle or campanelle pasta
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3-4 large shallots, chopped fine
3 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed
10 oz. shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps wiped clean and sliced 1/4 inch thick
10 oz. cremini mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 oz. (1 cup) grated Parmesan

Directions:
1. Bring 4 quarts water to rolling boil, covered, in stockpot; add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta, stir to separate, and cook until just shy of al dente. Drain and return pasta to stockpot.
2. Meanwhile, heat butter and oil over medium heat in a 12-inch skillet until foaming; add shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Increase heat to medium-high; add shiitakes and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add cremini mushrooms and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Stir in thyme and cook 30 seconds. Transfer mushrooms to bowl. Add broth to skillet and bring to boil, scraping up browned bits; off heat, stir in cream, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.
3. Add mushrooms, broth mixture, and cheese to pasta in stockpot. Toss over medium-low heat until pasta absorbs most of liquid, about 2 minutes; serve immediately.

Source: Cook’s Illustrated

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