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Mushrooms steal the show. September 18, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes.
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Silence Dogood here, and geez, it’s suddenly gotten cold—or at least, really cool—here where our friend Ben and I live in the precise middle of nowhere, PA. To me, cold weather calls for hot comfort food. Of course, baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, and mashed potatoes, not to mention roasted Yukon Gold potatoes, certainly qualify. But what if you want something a little more decadent?

Look no further. Mushrooms in Marsala Wine Sauce is so rich and decadent, nobody could believe how easy it is to make. Add a beautiful, colorful salad (more on this below) and you have a complete meal. You can even choose cartons of pre-sliced mushrooms to reduce prep time. But please note, this is an adults-only dish, not one you’d want to serve to the kids, because it’s a little boozy.

Mushrooms in Marsala Wine Sauce

Start with the mushrooms, and plenty of them. I typically mix it up with two cartons of shiitake mushrooms, a large carton of button mushrooms, a carton of baby bellas, and a carton of mixed gourmet mushrooms, including oyster and crimini mushrooms. You can use whatever mushrooms you like, in whatever combination and proportion you like; they’re all good here. Just make sure you don’t use nothing but button mushrooms; this dish requires deeper mushroom flavor or it will taste bland.

To prepare the dish, melt a half-stick to a stick of salted butter in a heavy pan (I love my LeCreuset Dutch oven for this). With most mushroom dishes, I’d use extra-virgin olive oil, but because this dish requires cream, I like to keep it all dairy. Dice a large sweet onion (such as Vidalia or WallaWalla) and saute in the melted butter, adding plenty of salt (we like RealSalt) or Trocamare and lots of fresh-cracked black pepper.

At the same time, heat a large container of water to a boil for the pasta. (You could also use rice, if you’d prefer. If so, prepare rice according to package directions or use a rice cooker. Because the flavors of this dish are delicate, you’ll want to use white rice, such as basmati, rather than brown.)

When the onion has clarified, add the mushrooms and cook until they’ve released their liquids. Now add a good sprinkling of ground fenugreek, garam masala, or ras el-hanout. If the pan starts to dry out, add some veggie broth or water to keep it moist rather than more butter.

Now’s the time to add cream. You can use heavy whipping cream, light cream, or even half-and-half, it’s your choice. Heavy cream will obviously thicken up fastest. In any case, dial down the heat. Add a pint and let it thicken, cook down, and coat the mushrooms and onion as you stir. Once your sauce is thick, it’s time to pour in a good splash (at least a half-cup) of Marsala wine (Madeira is also good, your choice) and let the sauce cook down.

Add spaghetti or fettucine to the boiling water in the pot if you’re going for pasta (our preference) and keep an eye on it; it should be al dente.

Last but by no means least, add a splash of bourbon to the sauce. Why? To cut the richness. Trust me, you’ll need it for the perfect, incredibly yummy dish.

And what about that salad? We’re talking about a super-rich, creamy comfort-food pasta dish here. That means that the salad should counterbalance the richness of the meal. Endive, radicchio, arugula, chicory, watercress, and similar greens will add aggressive bitter and spicy flavors to a salad to cut through the sweetness of the pasta dish. Don’t forget to add scallions (green onion), olives, capers, tomato, cucumber, and the like to up the salad ante!

—’Til next time,

Silence

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