Potato and Porcini Mushroom Gratin

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If there is one ingredient in particular that signifies fall to me, it’s mushrooms. I love them year round, but come October, I start to use more of them in my cooking than usual, especially the dried kind. And no dried mushroom is arguably more flavorful and more prized than porcini mushrooms. Layered between thin slices of potatoes and garlic-flecked cheese, this gratin makes for a decadent side dish to any cold-weather meal.

Potato and Porcini Mushroom Gratin

Ingredients:

2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup mascarpone cheese
3/4 cup whipping cream
3 garlic cloves, chopped
Pinch of grated nutmeg
2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes (about 5), peeled, cut crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices

1. Place porcini and boiling water in medium bowl. Place small plate atop bowl to keep covered and let soak 20 minutes. Drain and coarsely chop mushrooms.

2. Melt butter with oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and sauté until beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and remove from heat. Whisk 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, mascarpone cheese, whipping cream, garlic and nutmeg in a bowl; season with salt and pepper.

3. Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter wide shallow 2-quart baking dish. Arrange 1/4 of potato slices in bottom of dish. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Scatter 1/4 of mushrooms over. Repeat. Spread half of cheese mixture over, shaking dish to settle. Repeat with remaining potatoes and mushrooms in 2 layers each; spread remaining cheese mixture over. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons Parmesan over. Place gratin dish on rimmed baking sheet.

4. Bake gratin until top is brown and sauce is bubbling at edges, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Let gratin rest 15 minutes before serving.

Baked Pasta and Cheese with Radicchio, Pancetta and Porcini Mushrooms

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I have four macaroni and cheese recipes that I keep in regular rotation, and this is the most frequently requested of the bunch. It’s also the most labor intensive, so I tend to make it one or twice a year, usually during the holidays. Radicchio is not the most traditional ingredient in baked pasta dishes, but it lends a beautiful light purple hue to the dish and despite all the cheese and other not-so-good-for-you ingredients, you’re getting your vegetables too.

I adapted this dish from a Food and Wine magazine recipe. I use less than half the butter and cream than the original, making it not too unhealthy for a special occasion dish.

Baked Pasta and Cheese with Radicchio, Pancetta and Porcini Mushrooms

Ingredients:

1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
Boiling water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 ounces sliced pancetta, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 heads of radicchio, each cut into 8 wedges through the core
Salt and ground pepper
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1 pound medium shell pasta
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups low-fat milk
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 pound Asiago cheese, grated
5 ounces Fontina cheese, grated
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 3-quart baking dish. In a heatproof bowl, soak the porcini in boiling water until softened, about 15 minutes. Rinse the porcini to dislodge any grit, then drain and chop them. Discard the soaking liquid.

2. In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in the olive oil. Add the porcini, pancetta and one-third of the garlic and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is fragrant, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate.

3. Add the radicchio wedges to the skillet and cook over high heat until wilted and beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. Add the remaining garlic, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the radicchio is slightly caramelized, about 5 minutes longer. Stir in the porcini mixture and the sage. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

4. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt the remaining butter. Add the flour and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until foamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk and bring to a boil; cook, whisking until thickened, about 3 minutes. Add the cream and nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. Transfer the sauce to the bowl with the radicchio.

5. Add the pasta to the bowl along with the Asiago and Fontina; toss to combine. Transfer the pasta to the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, or until heated through.

6. Preheat the broiler. Broil the pasta for 2 minutes, until the top is golden and bubbling. Let stand for 10 minutes; serve.

Persimmon-Cranberry Sauce

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I have to be honest with you here: I used to really dislike cranberry sauce. Like yams with marshmallows, it was one of the few hallmarks of Thanksgiving that I never came to fully embrace. It probably didn’t help that the only cranberry sauce I’d ever tried was a gelatinous mass out of a can.

Until last year. I grew up with dual cultural Thanksgivings: baghali polo instead of stuffing alongside the turkey, mashed potatoes and tahdeeg. What better way to make an Iranian-American enjoy cranberry sauce than to throw some persimmons in there? We love our persimmons and now, I love my cranberry sauce too. And since Thanksgiving isn’t too far off, I’ve started craving this (ridiculously easy) recipe again. I adapted it from an old issue of Gourmet to suit my own tastes: less sugar, more persimmons and cranberries, and cinnamon instead of star anise to modify the original recipe.

Persimmon-Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients:

1 lb fresh cranberries
1/4 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup sugar
4 Fuyu persimmons, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice

1. Bring cranberries, wine, water, cinnamon, 1/2 cup sugar, and a pinch of salt to a boil in a medium heavy saucepan, stirring occasionally, then reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Fold in persimmons.

2. Transfer to a bowl and serve at room temperature. Stir gently before serving.

Pappardelle with Mascarpone-Porcini Sauce

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I’ve been cooking with dried porcini mushrooms a lot lately. I used them liberally in two Thanksgiving dishes: baked pasta shells with cheese, porcini, pancetta and radicchio; and porcini-potato gratin.

But we’ll get to those later. One of my favorite uses of this super-flavorful mushroom is in a pasta sauce, made even richer with the addition of creamy mascarpone cheese. Stirring in a classic tomato sauce at the end helps balance things out with a bit of acidity, making for a wholly satsifying dish.

Pappardelle with mascarpone-porcini sauce

Ingredients:

2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cans whole plum tomoates (preferably San Marzano)
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 handful basil, coarsely chopped
3 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
3 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
1 package pappardelle pasta
Salt and pepper to taste

1. In medium pot, gently saute the garlic with one tablespoon olive oil, and then add the chilli, oregano and tomatoes. Mix gently, taking care to not break up the tomatoes (this makes the sauce slightly bitter).

2. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for an hour. Add the vinegar, then stir and break up the tomatoes in the sauce with the back of a stirring spoon. Add basil, season well to taste, and add one tablespoon olive oil. Cover and set aside.

3. Place the dried porcini mushrooms in a small bowl and add 1 cup boiling water for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil and garlic in a medium pan and saute over low heat for 5 minutes. 

4. Pick out the soaked porcini, reserving the porcini broth, and add porcini to the pan. Saute for 5 minutes. Pour in half a cup of the reserved porcini broth and discard the remainder. Simmer the mushroom mixture until the liquid is absorbed and then add the tomato sauce. Add the mascarpone and season to taste.

5. Meanwhile, cook the papardelle in salted wated until al dente and drain. Add pasta to sauce and toss. Serve warm.

Hot and Sour Egg Flower Soup

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everyone says i cook too much east asian food. i guess its true, but i never tire of it. i mean, there’s so much to discover. and this of course includes chinese food. these are adapted from martin yan recipes:

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sichuan spicy noodle salad

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macanese steak with mushrooms

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hot and sour egg flower soup

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hakka shrimp-stuffed eggplant with black bean sauce

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gum-lo wontons with seafood sweet and sour sauce

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fujian fried rice

here’s the recipe for the soup:

3 dried black mushrooms
1 dried wood ear mushroom
2 ounces dried bean thread noodles
4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup carrot, sliced thinly
1/2 package medium tofu, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 tablespoons white vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch, drissolved in 2 tablespoons water
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 green onion, sliced thinly

1. soak mushrooms with warm water until soft, about 20 minutes. drain and slice thinly.

2. soak noodles with warm water until soft, about 10 minutes. drain and cut into four-inch lengths.

3. bring the chicken broth to a boil in a large saucepan. stir in the mushrooms and carrot, simmering for about 2 minutes.

4. stir in the noodles, tofu, vinegar, soy sauce, chili garlic sauce, and sugar. simmer for about 2 minutes. pour in the dissolved cornstarch and cook, stirring, until the soup boils and thickens, about 1 minute. slowly pour in the egg, stirring the soup to create “egg flowers.”

5. ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with green onions.