Month: April 2011

Cauliflower-Cheese Pie with Potato Crust

I usually don’t cook from cookbooks, but occasionally one finds oneself with a surfeit of some wintry CSA crucifer like cauliflower, and after gazing at your kitchen shelf, still shockingly covered in dusty quart jars of pickles, decide maybe you’ll try cooking the damn thing […]

Ukrainian Borscht with Pancetta and Juniper

Many foods are evocative of one’s place of peasant origin, of one’s mother-tongue. When done properly, the mere smell of these foods has the power to bring a grown man to his blubbering knees, felled by memories of hiding shy behind grandma’s apron. Borscht is […]

Penne with Asian mushrooms, bok choy and Gorgonzola cream

Umami is a many-splendored thing. I love just piling it on in my dishes, and I am even known to add a scant whisper (or sometimes more of a prattle) of MSG to my dishes. Oh, lower those eyebrows, you. MSG is harmless. I see you raising your fist and getting all fired up about this, but shut it down for a minute and let this simmer:

If MSG is so bad for our neurology, why are Asians so much better than us at math?

Yes. “Touche.

Harp all you want, MSG makes food taste really good. But sometimes, lilies need no gilding. This dish is packed with four different natural sources of umami: bunashimeji (beech) and black trumpet mushrooms , bok choy, Gorgonzola cheese and walnuts. It is a veritable umami party, and everyone’s invited. Well, actually, I only made enough for my family. Sorry about that.

Craterellus cornucopioides

This sinister-looking relative of chanterelles, the black trumpet mushroom, is wonderfully earthy and spodic, tasting of sweet duff and chipmunk-industry. The comparatively placid bunashimeji, or beech mushrooms, take aggressive heat wonderfully; it just nudges them in a nuttier, chewier direction.

Hypsizygus tessellatus

This is how we do it:

How’s about you get some butter and olive oil sizzling away, and you add a minced shallot? Heck, add a couple mashed garlic cloves, too, while you’re at it. Stir them around a bit, and should they start to get browned on this medium-high heat, add those mushrooms. (Trim off the woody, dirty bit of the stems. Slice the black trumpets into a fungal chiffonade of sorts; the bunamshimeji can stay whole since they are teeny-tiny.) They will release some of the 90% of the water of which their bodies are composed, and this will deglaze the sticky shallot and garlic quite nicely. Add some cleaned and quarted baby bok choys – three should be just about right. Now why don’t you add about a cup of half and half (to which you’ve stirred a few tablespoons of flour), and let that thicken and gelatinize into a creamy bechamel? Shoot, you could even use just whole milk if you’re being particular. Then when it’s bubbly and good, add a good hunk of Gorgonzola or blue cheese, just all crumbled up. Taste and add the proper amount of salt and pepper. Then toss in some chopped parsley, and cooked penne (or other bite-sized pasta, I suppose) and ooh, mommy.

Top with chopped toasted walnuts and serve with a brambly Côtes du Rhône.

Biscuits and Andouille Gravy-Poached Eggs

Once upon a childless time, the ache in my back and shoulders was reserved for weekend chores, for accomplishment. It was earned by moving 10 cubic yards of compost and manure, shovelful by endless shovelful. This ache is now ever-present, and I gaze out my […]

Pork cheek confit with caramelized turnip and apples

Spring has indeed sprung, yet I always find myself at this time of year with a certain yen for autumnal things. Pomes and root vegetables; meats cooked to shredded perfection, their connective stuff all pulverized (by time, or pressure) to gelatin. These are good things, […]