Choosing among the local vegetables in the Whole Foods produce section Saturday morning did not exactly threaten to cut into my afternoon plans. What with the whole tundra trend in my region these past few months, I suppose a certain echoing quality to those hallowed aisles is to be expected. Still, there's been a lot of enticing talk about planting and even eating baby spring veg in the national glossies and the West Coast food blogs recently, and I'm starting to feel a little gray by comparison. (My long-distance subscription to Sunset Magazine, borderline unhealthy and stalkerish to begin with, has really been rubbing salt in that particular wound.)
If a girl has got to feel gray, it's at least some consolation that the singular option among local vegetables coordinates with her color scheme. And mushrooms have a lot to recommend them beyond their neutral, sympathetic hue. Long recognized as powerhouses in both the nutrition and taste departments, they can also be a lot of fun. Especially when you spike them with brandy and light them on fire.
Like fun guys on college campuses the world over, there's little they won't do after that kind of hazing. They'll top polenta, rice, pasta, potatoes or crostini. They'll make a rich sauce for chicken or steak. They'll fill an omelet or a small tart shell. They'll even stand up as a side-dish on their own.
Compared to that other type of fun guy, however, these fungi also boast a certain level of decorum and subtlety. I'm just sayin'.
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 large shallot or small yellow onion, minced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps sliced
- 1/2 pound crimini mushrooms, sliced
- 1/3 cup brandy
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
- Salt and pepper
Melt the butter over medium heat in a wide frying pan. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring once in a while, until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms along with a couple of good pinches of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 3 to 5 minutes more, until the mushrooms have given off their liquid and reduced to about two-thirds their original volume.
Remove the pan from the heat and pour in the brandy from a measuring cup. (Don't pour directly from the bottle despite what you may have seen in the movies.) Very carefully light a long match and touch the surface of the mushroom mixture to ignite the brandy. Or, if you're cooking with gas, you can tip the pan away from you into the burner's flame until the brandy ignites. I find this method maybe a little too entertaining. Stand back until the flame dies out.
Return the pan to low heat. Add the cream and stir to combine. Simmer until the cream has thickened slightly, a minute or two. Turn off the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese and parsley. Taste for seasoning and add additional salt and pepper if desired.