Monday, June 8, 2009

4 stars and mushrooms

My love affair with mushrooms started in my childhood with Morels. Every spring my father and a bunch of friends would go morel hunting. Later while they were enjoying an orgy of mutual grooming (morel season is also tick season) Mom cook up the days bounty.

I will never forget the taste of those mushrooms. They were sweet and nutty and meltingly good. I have no idea what Mom did to them (other than use butter) but it was good. Every spring I still get the craving for morels but alas they are not to be found here in Texas and dried is just not the same.

It should there for come as no surprise when the Mushroom Council invited me to attend an event at Abacus to discuss mushrooms and their changing roles in cuisine and the food industry with recipe demo and 3 course meal by chef Kent Rathburn I jumped at it. I mean 4 star restaurant, Iron chef winner (take that Flay) and mushrooms, how could it be better?

I will tell you how, I got to meet Kelly of Evil Shenanigans, she was the other blogger present. The pictures in this post are from her since my camera batteries died after 1 picture. To be honest she did a better job then I ever could have. Go see her post about the event here.

Actually this post is just a teaser, I am writing an article about the experience for Blake Makes magazine that will have actual recipes and other cool information in it (but probably not alot of me gushing about how great it was).

Chef Kent Rathburn demonstrated three techniques for cooking mushrooms in three recipes featuring 6 diffrent readily available mushrooms. He did a 'Wood Grilled Portabella and Oyster Mushroom Pizza with Gorgonzola, Rocket Greens Salad', a 'Pan Roasted Shitake and Button Mushroom Linguine with Braised Veal Shank, Port Demi' and a 'Crimini and Maitake Mushroom Ragu with Grilled Romano Cheese Polenta'. It was easy to see why Chef Rathburn beat Flay on Iron Chef, all three dishes were fantastic and show cased the mushrooms beautifully. I have made up my mind it is worth saving the money for truely fine dining as opposed to eating out more often at chain resturaunts.

I will admit that the Pizza was my favorite (and with any luck it will be the recipe in the magazine). Two things in this dish reduced me to happy sounds and silly smiles. The first was of course the mushrooms, delicately smoked and oh so tender, good lord I could have eaten them straight up and been happy. The second thing was the oven roasted cherry tomatoes. They were like little savory raisins, sweet, tangy and a hint of herbs. These are definitely going on my make them often list and Indra can just suffer in her little tomato free zone, cause they are just that good. (I will put the instructions for these at the bottom of this post). He topped the pizza with a rocket and gorganzola salad, somehow all the flavors came together to make me like gogonzola and rocket salad with a lemon vinigret (not something I thought possible). This dish has made me rethink all those fancy cookbooks I have been shunning as pretensious and overly complicated.

The second dish was very good but just did not wow me. I will admit the veal was melt in you mouth smooth and flavorful, and perhaps that was the problem I wanted more of the delicious sauteed mushrooms darn it! Now I know veal is a bad word and I can understand the objections, I just am not sure I support the cause 100%. I definitly support eating tasty food, and veal fits that catagory, but all things considered it may be one of those foods that is just not worth the price for me.

The final dish was a revelation to me, the polenta cake was light and fluffy in texture, not something I thought you could do with polenta. Add some maitake mushrooms (Kelly and I both swore they had a sweet floral / honey note to them) and I was sold.

I learned that mushrooms are the only fruit or vegetable that contains vitamin D. Mushrooms are a very eco friendly crop (lots of recycling) and wasn't the video fun as it tried to avoid saying exactly what the major component in the growth medium was. We also learned that most mushroom growers would love to give you a tour of their facility. Definitely something I am going to try.

Don't forget to check out the Mushroom Councils website and Blog for recipes, news and contests.

To make Oven roasted Cherry tomatoes heat your oven to the extreemely high temprature of 180. cut your tomatoes in half and toss them with a little roasted garlic oil and herbs. spread face up on baking sheet and roast for about 1.5 hours. Nothing should get crispy. remove and enjoy, they will stay good for a week or so with proper care put they are not like raisin that you can stuff in the cupboard and will still be good months later.

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