Most people who know me well know that I don't care for mushrooms. Though I'm not allergic to them, I've never liked them, and I'll usually pick them out if they are in something I'm eating. The only B Spot burger I haven't actually tasted is the Shroomage, which is topped with Portobello (though there are a couple of new burgers on the menu as of about 2 weeks ago that I haven't tried yet - more to come on that soon).
|Shroomage consumed by a dining companion at B Spot, February 5, 2010.|
In recent years, as I try to eliminate or minimize food taboos as much as possible, I've embraced the fabulous umami and deep flavor that mushrooms can give to food. Tree ear mushroom slivers, when included in Chinese dishes, actually go down pretty well now, and I've cleaned the plate of silky mushroom soup served by AMP 150's Ellis Cooley and Jeff Jarrett a couple of times. But there is still something about mushrooms that just doesn't work for me. They absolutely disgust me raw - I can't handle them at all, not even to wash or chop them. Likewise, pieces of mushroom do not make me hungry, even when fully cooked.
So it must have been the Leprechauns at work on St. Patrick's day at the North Union Farmers' Market. Bob and I had already discussed a fish and Kasha Varnishkes dinner. We were chatting with Charlie at the Ohio Honey Co. booth when inspiration struck. Killbuck Valley Mushrooms has always had the stand next to Ohio Honey at the Winter Market, but we never stop there for obvious reasons.
Kasha Varnishkes is often made with mushrooms, but my mother never made it that way and neither do I. As we stood a few short feet from the mushroom stand, it hit me that adding some mushroom to the pan would seriously up the umami factor in the final dish. We've heard so many wonderful things about Killbuck Valley's product, so, as long as Bob was willing to wash and cut them (and eat them, since I'd pick my pieces out), I was game to try it!
|Shittakes from Killbuck Valley Mushrooms|
I'm pretty sure these were the first raw mushrooms to enter our house in the 15+ years we've lived here. I asked Bob to cut them in large enough pieces that they'd be easy to pick out.
While I prepped the Kasha Varnkishes, Bob treated these lovely Blue Marlin steaks from BayLobsters Fish Market to salt, pepper and EVOO, and started the grill.
Kasha Varnishkes begins with caramelizing onions in your choice of fat. For meat meals, schmaltz is traditional; my mom used cooking oil or onion flavored Nyafat (which no longer exists). For a dairy meal (or parve protein, meaning neither meat nor dairy, such as fish), butter is the winning choice. So, onions luxuriated in a mixture of ghee (clarified butter) and Hartzler roll butter (with some Kosher salt) for about 20 minutes, then came out of the pan. Next, the kasha groats, which had been soaking up a beaten egg, went into the pan to seal the egg onto the groats. After emptying the pan and applying more butter (and a bit of peanut oil), I pushed the mushrooms in. Two minutes later, I flipped them around, then gave them another two minutes, salt and fresh ground black pepper. I marveled at the intensely mushroomy aroma, then added a little more oil, and returned the kasha and onions to the pan.
The next step is to add hot water or stock. My mother tended towards plain water, but I wanted to infuse some additional flavor, so I made a quick vegetable stock of water, salt and pepper, a large oven-dried garden tomato, and broccoli (which I blanched, then removed to use as our vegetable side dish). Once the tomato rehydrated and broke down, I dumped the liquid into the pan, stirred, lowered the heat and put a lid on it. Fifteen minutes later, the pan received 8 ounces of small bowtie pasta that had been cooked al dente and drained. After some additional stirring to combine all of the ingredients, dinner was served:
Bob reports that the actual mushroom meat tasted wonderful, with a woodiness he loved. While I still can't get myself to want to eat the mushrooms themselves, I definitely appreciated what they added to the dish. This is a perfect example of not letting your food taboos get in the way of experimenting and enjoying twists on your usual flavors. Mushrooms, anyone?