“Perception is a powerful thing. Your best meal could be an elaborate 16-course affair, or a hot dog shared with someone special on a mountaintop. The best meals are more about the moment than they are about the food.”
– “I Viaggio Di Vetri: A Culinary Journey” by Marc Vetri
I love that quote. While I often eat alone, food is definitely a way to share with others. To share time, to share conversation and food comes second. The love that was put into a meal says a lot to me. I love cooking, but sometimes find it stressful when cooking for others on a timeline. I have to remind myself it is the company that matters most, not necessarily the meal. Even if I get picked on for lousy cooking (Good Friday 2009 will never be forgotten! arg!).
I wanted to highlight this dish as the finale of my spotlight on eating for 1 (even if the photo doesn’t do it nearly the justice it deserves). I cooked it for 4, though, when I had friends over for dinner. Perhaps it was the company that made it special, but this dish was truly phenomenal. Coupled with great friends, games, laughs and good food, you can’t go wrong.
I don’t cook much meat, and was really eager to try mushroom bourguignon when I saw it on Smitten Kitchen. She had high praise for the dish – not as much prep as a typical beef bourguignon but all the flavour courtesy of 2 pounds of portobello mushrooms. No need for a bottle of red wine either. I could serve the rest of the red wine to my guests. This dish did not disappoint in the slightest. It was easy and incredibly delicious and rich. Dare I suggest it will convert mushroom haters? I think so although I have yet to try. ;)
I served it with spaetzle, which is a German egg dumpling. My mom makes the most fabulous spaetzle and I automatically figured she had a family recipe in her armamentarium. Nope, it turns out it is from The Joy of Cooking. It can be a bit challenging to make spaetzle to get the proper shape without the proper tools. There are presses specifically to make spaetzle, which is what I use, but you could also use a colander with large holes. You basically force the dough through the holes to make short strands of dough. You could also cut off small pieces of dough from a cutting board, which I have also done in my pre-spaetzle maker era. The mushroom bourguignon would be delicious with a side of egg noodles, too.
This is my submission to Tobias’ 13th Mediterranean Cooking Event, featuring dishes from France.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 pounds portobello mushrooms, in 1/4-inch slices (save the stems for another use)
1/2 carrot, finely diced
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup full-bodied red wine
2 cups beef or vegetable broth (beef broth is traditional but vegetable to make it vegetarian; it works with either)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup pearl onions, peeled
Egg noodles or spaetzle (recipe follows), for serving
Sour cream and chopped chives or parsley, for garnish (optional)
1. Heat the one tablespoon of the olive oil and one tablespoon of butter in a medium Dutch oven or heavy sauce pan over high heat. Sear the mushrooms until they begin to darken, but not yet release any liquid — about three or four minutes. Remove them from pan.
2. Lower the flame to medium and add the second tablespoon of olive oil. Toss the carrots, onions, thyme, a few good pinches of salt and a several grinds of black pepper into the pan and cook for 10, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for just one more minute.
3. Add the wine to the pot, scraping any stuck bits off the bottom, then turn the heat all the way up and reduce it by half. Stir in the tomato paste and the broth. Add back the mushrooms with any juices that have collected and once the liquid has boiled, reduce the temperature so it simmers for 20 minutes, or until mushrooms are very tender. Add the pearl onions and simmer for five minutes more.
4. Combine remaining butter and the flour with a fork until combined; stir it into the stew. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 more minutes. If the sauce is too thin, boil it down to reduce to the right consistency. Season to taste.
5. To serve, spoon the stew over a bowl of egg noodles or spaetzle (recipe follows), dollop with sour cream (optional) and sprinkle with chives or parsley.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of freshly grated or ground nutmeg
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk or water
6 cups salted water or chicken stock
1. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.
2. Beat together the eggs and milk or water. Add the flour mixture. Beat well with a wooden spoon to create a fairly elastic batter.
3. Bring water or broth to a simmer in a large pot. Drop small bits of dough from a spoon into the boiling liquid or force the batter through a spaetzle machine or colander. Spaetzle are done when they float to the surface. They should be delicate and light, although slightly chewy. If the first few are heavy and dense, add a few more drops of milk or water to the batter before continuing.
4. Serve with melted butter (or alongside a gravy-heavy dish like bourguignon). Or melt butter in a skillet, add spaetzle and cook 3 to 5 minutes.
Both recipes serve 4.