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Comfort Food

jmv Magic Mushrooms? NOT CC BY 2.0There is something innately comforting about mushrooms. The comfort factor doubles when you add heavy cream and butter and white wine… am I right? Last Sunday I took the afternoon to chop and sweat and simmer mushrooms to my heart’s content, and then I poured some tender loving care onto a pot of herbed basmati rice — I can’t decide what I enjoyed more, the eating or the cooking.

I’ve been suffering from blogger’s block this past week. My attempts to embellish the sautéing of mushrooms with a nugget of spiritual wisdom or worldly advice have left me dry and desperate. Just being honest. It turns out, though, that cooking is quite the complimentary activity to writer’s block — working with your hands, it seems, gives your brain a rest. If you’re good at following directions, and you know how to spot a well-written recipe, things generally turn out as planned.

Not like some other things I’ve had on my mind lately. I’ve been reading (and writing) about education reform, how many of the same, stale reforms are recycled throughout the centuries, repeatedly putting teachers at the center of controversy. Also, I’ve been busy turning a year older, wondering why I’m not “farther” in life, why certain accomplishments haven’t landed in my lap yet, you know, run-of-the-mill ruminations. (However, I do feel loved, thanks to all your calls and texts). And I’ve dug deep into Donna Tartt’s new novel, The Goldfinch. The book is so full — of characters and settings and language — having already bounced from the sweet, romantic New York City life Theo shares with his single mother to the surreal interior of a bombed out art museum, to the lush, moneyed apartment of Theo’s friend Andy to the subdued, textured back room of an antiques dealer to the bright squalor of Las Vegas, I can’t predict where the plot will turn next.

So I embrace the comforting predictability of cooking, the way a pot of food on the stove sets a scene of its own. Enjoy 🙂

Creamed Mushrooms
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

1 pound of button mushrooms
4-5 tablespoons of butter
2 shallots, chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4-1/2 cup heavy cream
kosher salt and black pepper
thick slices of bread, buttered and toasted (optional)

Tools

Paper towels
Chef’s knife
Cutting board
Mixing bowls
Liquid measuring cups
Large pot
Wooden spoon

  • With moist paper towels, wipe the mushrooms clean of dirt.
  • Slice the mushrooms and chops the slices into 1/4-inch pieces. This takes a while — enjoy some chopping zen 🙂
  • Chop the shallots and place in a bowl. Measure out the wine and the heavy cream in advance, for some mise en place — why not.
  • In a large pot, melt 4 tablespoons of butter on low heat and add the chopped shallots.
  • Sauté the shallots until they’re soft and limp over medium to medium-high heat.
  • Add the mushrooms, and possibly another tablespoon of butter if they seem dry. Cook until the mushrooms start to soften, stirring occasionally, over medium to medium-high heat.
  • Add the wine, and cover, cooking the shrooms about 5 minutes more.
  • Uncover the pot and continue cooking for a few minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  • Add the heavy cream and cook a bit longer, allowing the cream to thicken somewhat. (1/2 cup was too much for me; I’d start by adding 1/4 cup and add  little more to achieve a thick, creamy consistency without leftover liquid).
  • Serve on top of buttered toast or on its own, with rice.

Herbed Basmati Rice
Adapted from Ina Garten

Ingredients

2 cups basmati rice
3 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons minced parsley
2 tablespoons minced dill
2 pinches black pepper

Tools

Measuring cups & spoons
Chef’s knife
Cutting board
Mixing bowls
Large saucepan
Wooden spoon
Fork

  • Measure out the ingredients and mince the herbs.
  • Place the rice, water, salt, and butter in a large saucepan.
  • Bring to a boil, give everything a quick stir, reduce the heat to low and simmer with the lid on for 15 minutes. Watch to see that the mixture doesn’t boil over; you may have to temporarily remove it from the heat if the liquid bubbles up.
  • Once fifteen minutes have passed, turn off the heat and let the mixture sit for 5 more minutes.
  • Add the herbs and pepper and fluff it with a fork.

 

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