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Give Your Mushroom Soup a Kick


Mushroom Soup

Recipes are guidelines, not written in stone. It’s a mantra we repeat whenever we enter the kitchen, especially when we may be shy of an ingredient called for.

I repeated that to myself when trying this recipe freely adapted from “Joy of Cooking” (Scribner, $35). I had plenty of wanted a little extra mushroom oomph, but I didn’t have the wild mushrooms called for, so I added porcini powder to my mix of button caps and cremini mushrooms.I was fresh out of shallots, so I used little less than 1/2 cup of red onion and minced it finely.

I also like a little extra spice, so I stirred in some Indian garlic pickle. Sriracha or even a dash of hot sauce would work well.

Finally, take a tip from Irma S. Rombauer and her fellow authors of “Joy of Cooking: “Slice rather than chop the mushrooms for a meaty texture and a handsome look.”

So, here’s your outline. Make it as you like it.

Mushroom Soup

3 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter or additional olive oil
1 1/2 pounds mushrooms, preferably 12 ounces wild, wiped clean and tough stems removed, sliced
1/2 cup chopped shallots
3 tablespoons dry sherry or Madeira
5 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon dried thyme, or less to taste, or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
4 1/2 cups vegetable stock, mushroom stock or chicken stock
2 generous teaspoons porcini powder (see note)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Hot sauce, to taste (optional)
Chopped fresh parsley or fresh thyme, for garnish

Heat in a stock pot over high heat the olive oil and butter. Add the mushrooms and shallots. Cook, stirring often until the mushrooms are wilted, about 5 minutes. Add sherry or Madeira, flour and thyme, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan, for 5 minutes. Stir in stock, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. reduce the heat the medium and simmer until slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Ladle into warmed bowls. Garnish with fresh parsley or fresh thyme.

Note: You can get porcini powder in the spice area at Central Market.

Makes about 6 cups.

Adapted from “Joy of Cooking” by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethan Becker

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Raw Mushroom Salad with Celery


What type of mushrooms will you use?

In Italy, the best dishes uses the finest ingredients in simple ways that show off just how good they are. That’s the secret behind this mushroom salad, which features only celery and parsley in addition to the mushrooms. Salt, pepper, oil and lemon juice dress it, and you’re set.

The best mushrooms, according to Jacob Kenedy in “Bocca Cookbook” (Bloomsbury, $45), would be seasonal favorites you find in Italian markets during the spring and fall, but the success of the recipe is not dependent on that.

“Ovoli mushrooms, Amanita caesarea, have a delicate taste and are wonderful,” he writes. “Picked young, as the bright orange cap emerges from its white sarcophagus, they look just like hatching eggs. To say they are hard to find would be a gross understatement, but other mushrooms can make this salad just as good. In particular, porchini (also known as ceps), if young and firm, are delicious raw; even the humble cremini mushroom would make this a pleasaing dish.”

Raw Mushroom Salad with Celery

1/2 pound ovoli, porcini or cremini mushrooms, no more than 2 1/2 inches long
4 ribs celery
Leaves from 3 to 4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice, or a little more to taste

Clean any dirt from the bases of the mushrooms with a pairing knife, and wipe the caps gently with a damp cloth, if necessary — don’t wash them. Slice them finely, around 1/8-inch thick, and also slice the celery ribs on the bias to around the same thickness.

Spread the celery and mushrooms thinly on a plate, scatter with the parsley leaves, salt and pepper to taste, then drizzle with the olive oil and lemon. Serve quickly, before the salt draws the juices from the vegetables and leaves the salad wet and limp.

Makes 4 starter servings or 2 main course servings.

From “Bocca Cookbook” by Jacob Kenedy

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Mushrooms in Cream Sauce (Champignons à la Crème)


At several of the farmers markets in the area, you can find beautiful mushrooms that would be perfect with a nice juicy steak. Here’s a classic French way to prepare those beauties. The recipe comes from Richard Grausman’s new “French Classics Made Easy” (Workman Publishing, $16.95).

Champignons à la Crème, as they are also known, also make “an excellent first course served simply on a piece of toast (or) puff pastry,” Grausman writes.

Mushrooms in Cream Sauce

1 tablespoon butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 pound white or cremini mushrooms, washed, dried and sliced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 to 2 teaaspoons dry sherry or Madeira, to taste (optional)
Toast, for serving

In a medium-size saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and sauté for about 2 minutes without browning.

Add the mushrooms, sprinkle with the salt and pepper, and cover tightly with a lid. Reduce the heat to medium-low and steam the msuhrooms slowly in their own moisture for about 10 minutes.

Remove the mushrooms with a skimmer or slotted spoon and set aside. Reduce the cooking liquid over high heat until only 3 tablespoons remain, about 3 minutes.

Add the cream and boil, uncovered until the sauce thickens slightly. Return the mushrooms to the sauce. (The mushrooms can be made in advance up to this point. Cover the surface with plstic wrap and refrigerate.)

To serve: First bring to a boil, then taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Add the sherry or Madeira (if using) and spoon over warm toast.

Makes 6 servings.

From “French Classics Made Easy” by Richard Grausman

 

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Grilled Portobello Pizzas Are Easy and Versatile


A portobello pizza on the grill

If you’re trying to avoid pizza crust because of too many carbohydrates or too much gluten, there is a solution. Fralo’s Art of Pizza in Leon Springs offers a portobello mushroom pizza that’s not on the menu, but it is available if you know to ask for it.

I tried to make my own version the other night for a quick dinner and found it both easy and delicious, with that almost marrow-like quality of the portobello shining through.

This dish can be an appetizer or a main course with a tossed salad alongside it.

And like any great pizza, you can tailor it to fit your tastes, with everything from green olives to anchovies to ham and pineapple.

Grilled Portobello Pizzas

1 clove garlic, minced
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 portobello mushrooms, stems removed
Tomato sauce
Dried oregano or basil, to taste
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
Your choice of toppings
Mozzarella cheese

Light your grill and get it hot. Spray with oil.

Sauté the garlic — and onion or green pepper, if you’re using — in the olive oil.

Portobello pizzas before hitting the grill

Brush the portobello caps on both sides with the oil. Place the caps with the top down on a plate. Sprinkle the garlic on the cap. Cover with a little tomato sauce, about 2 tablespoons, but not enough to make the cap soggy. Add oregano or basil, salt and pepper to taste. Top with onions, pepper, black olives, anchovies, pepperoni or whatever topping you choose. Top with mozzarella cheese (you can use shredded or a deli slice to cover the top).

Turn the grill down to medium-low heat. Place the mushrooms on the grill and close the lid. Let cook for at least 7 minutes so the cheese can melt. When the cheese has melted, remove from the grill and serve.

Makes 2 pizzas.

Adapted from Fralo’s Art of Pizza

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Sausage, Cheese and Garlic Shine in Grilled Chorizo-stuffed Mushrooms


Grilled Chorizo-stuffed Mushrooms

Grilling mushrooms filled with chorizo, garlic and more makes for an easy appetizer. And this recipe, from Garrett Stephens of the County Line, comes topped with Manchego cheese for an extra rich layer of flavor.

Stephens served these beauties with a Shiner Blond, one of our favorite summer time brews.

Stephens will be cooking up more such treats at his latest Pitmaster Class at the County Line, 10101 I-10 W., this Friday evening. For more information, call 210-641-1998 to see if any seats are left.

Grilled Chorizo-stuffed Mushrooms

16 large white mushrooms, stemmed, caps clean with dampened towel
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pound Mexican or Spanish chorizo, depending on your taste
¾ cup finely diced onions
4 cloves minced garlic
½ cup bread crumbs
¼ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
½ cup Manchego cheese
½ lemon, juiced
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Generously brush the mushrooms with olive oil and place on vegetable grill grate.

Sauté the onions 1-2 minutes until they begin to sweat.  Add garlic and cook 1-2 more minutes.  Add the chorizo and cook through.  Drain excess oil from chorizo mixture and transfer to a bowl.  Add the breadcrumbs, herbs, and lemon juice.  Season mixture to taste with salt and pepper.

Stuff the mushrooms with mixture and top with a little cheese.

Set a grill up for indirect grilling.  Place mushrooms on vegetable grate set on away from heat.  Cover grill.  Cook the mushrooms until tender and nicely browned, about 15-20 minutes.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

From Garrett Stephens, the County Line.

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Griffin to Go: At NIOSA, It’s Always Time to Make the Mushrooms


Fried mushrooms with cream gravy at NIOSA.

Mushrooms are serious business at A Night in Old San Antonio.

When Donald Ewing and Wayne Hartman became co-chairmen of the fried mushroom booth four years ago, they knew some changes had to be made.

Claudia Blanco batters mushrooms while booth co-chairman Donald Ewing breads them.

People loved the fried button caps with a spicy breading and some cream gravy on the side, but servings of the hot, crispy treats were not getting into their hands quickly enough.

So, Ewing, who had worked at the booth for six years already, and Hartman, who also had a one or two years’ experience under his belt, began to streamline the assembly process. Almost immediately, people were getting their mushrooms quicker than ever, and after four years, sales had doubled.

Breaded mushrooms fit for frying.

They determined that it takes 20 people each shift to make sure the process runs smoothly, which means 160 volunteers over the course of the event. That’s a lot of people, so Ewing starts recruiting in February.

I joined the list a little late in the process, and when I showed up early Tuesday evening, people were quickly signing in, washing hands and reporting to stations. Though the gates hadn’t opened, a few customers from other booths wanted their ‘shrooms, and it was the perfect time to get the process down pat. There was little formality to the procedure. A few of us saw where work needed to be done, and with a little instruction, we began.

I dredged fresh mushrooms in a soupy egg batter that managed to get all over the place, including up my arms and on my shirt, despite wearing an apron. I then moved them on to a bowl where fellow worker Phil Stanley rolled them in a breading mix pungent with lemon pepper, black pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Excess batter was then shaken off by Victor Castillo, who then piled them into a fry basket. Kelly Forster was in charge of the frying, making sure they stayed in the hot oil for “4 minutes and 20 seconds exactly,” the time it took for them to get a rich golden brown.

Volunteers scoop mushrooms into paper trays.

“We go from fridge to fryer in less than two minutes,” says Ewing with great satisfaction.

After the mushrooms had drained, they were poured out on a table where another round of volunteers quickly scooped them into paper trays and moved them to the front, where the ticket takers topped them with cream gravy if desired. New this year was ranch dressing as an alternate topping. That was what I opted for when I tried these juicy little morsels with a beer after my shift.

Not rocket science, certainly, but everything moved quickly and surely throughout the shift. We got the job done with minimal fuss. That meant a constant stream of satisfied customers who didn’t have to wait in a long line. What could be better than that? Within a couple of hours, we had moved through about half of the 60 boxes of button caps that had been stocked for the evening. Over the course of NIOSA, the chairmen plan to use more than 200 of the 10-pound boxes. Last year was the first time more than 1 ton of mushrooms had been sold, Ewing said. That’s a lot of mushrooms, when you consider how light each one is.

This was Stanley’s first NIOSA, and he was ready to party, but like the rest of us, he made sure the work got done. Castillo had worked the booth last year; like most of the people I’ve met at NIOSA food booths over the years, he got involved through a friend who had been volunteering.

Rose Moran got involved the same way about 20 years ago. She started working at the beer booth and soon became its chairman. Three years ago, however, she was placed in charge of the entire International Area, which features Maria’s Tortillas as well as the mushroom booth.

“I love it,” she says. “My husband thinks I’m crazy and my friends think I’m crazy. But it just amazes me how much everybody pitches in.”

Mushroom booth co-chairmen Wayne Hartman (left) and Donald Ewing.

The mushroom booth is, far and away, the best seller in her area and is “one of the top two or three booths in NIOSA,” she says.

That’s great news for the San Antonio Conservation Society, which uses funds from the event for historic preservation.

“The bottom line is, we’re all here for the cause,” Moran says.

Photos by Bonnie Walker and John Griffin.

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Baby, It’s Cold Outside!


As the winter continues to blast the region with icy gusts of wind and below-freezing temperatures, the time has come for some hearty fare cooked slowly to add warmth to your home as well as your body.

And what could be more welcome than beef cooked until it falls apart with the touch of a fork? SavorSA offers two complementary yet different takes on braised beef with mushrooms. One is Pot Roast With Wild Mushrooms and Thyme, which is cooked in red wine. The other, Pasta With Braised Beef and Mushrooms, has wine with a hint of  cream.

We also include a recipe for Guinness Stew, an old favorite whose appeal extends far beyond Ireland.

No matter what you cook, just remember to stay warm this weekend.

Recipe: Pot Roast with Wild Mushrooms and Thyme

Recipe: Pasta With Braised Beef and Mushrooms

Recipe: Make Guinness Stew in a Slow Cooker

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Griffin to Go: Grilling vegetables


Grilled zucchini picked fresh from the garden.

Grilled zucchini picked fresh from the garden.

I’m a dedicated meat-eater. I think pork is one of the four basic food groups (butter and heavy cream make up a second).

So it may seem odd that when I finally broke down and got a gas grill, the first thing I cooked on it was a batch of fresh pattypan squash from the farmers market.

It wasn’t that I didn’t have any meat on hand, mind you. I had just gotten the vegetables that day from the market, though, and they were so fresh and firm that they were practically crying out to be quartered, marinated and grilled.

You don’t need a fancy dressing with sugar and/or a host of spices. All I did was coated them well with some olive oil, salt and pepper for a few minutes before putting them on the grill.

I didn’t need anything else that meal, except a glass of rosé, as good a drink with grilled foods as a cold beer.

Those squashes remain among of the best dishes to come off my grill, and not just because they were first. I continue to grill them exactly the same way, which is quite frequent now that squashes are in season.

But don’t limit yourself to squashes or peppers. You can grill most any vegetable, including eggplant, if you approach it right.

Tom Perini, owner of Perini Ranch Steakhouse in Buffalo Gap, near Abilene, offers a great chart for grilled vegetables in his book, “Texas Cowboy Cooking,” which came out in 2000 and is still in print.

He doesn’t add anything to his Fire-Roasted Vegetables until they are finished cooking. All he does is cut some up and remove the seeds if needs be.

Yellow summer squash.

Yellow summer squash on the grill.

“This is a technique you can use with just about any vegetable,” he writes. “Grilling vegetables over a live fire awakens the sugars and brings the flavor of the vegetables to the surface, a flavor you don’t get in an oven. The color you get by grilling vegetables is spectacular: They look great with a little bit of char around the edges and there’s nothing prettier than grilled vegetables with your steak. Be careful not to cook them to much, they need to have a little firmness.”

That last sentence cannot be emphasized enough: Don’t let your attention stray from the vegetables. They cook quickly. Too much heat and you’ve got burnt mush.

Here are Tom’s suggestions for handling the vegetables and his time-table for cooking them to just the right doneness. He prefers coal, which does offer great added flavor, but I have found that gas works almost as well if you’re in a hurry or cooking for one:

Fire-Roasted Vegetables

Wash the vegetables. Use the chart below to determine proportions and cooking times. See that coals are red-hot and about 6 inches below the grill before starting to cook.

Peppers: bell, Anaheim, poblano, 8-10 minutes. Cut in half lengthwise and seed.
Peppers: jalapeños, 10 minutes. Leave whole.
Mushrooms, 8-10 minutes. Use whole caps with stems removed or trimmed.
Onions, sweet Texas, green and purple, 10-15 minutes. Slice crosswise into 1/2-inch slices.
Sweet potatoes, 8-10 minutes. Slice crosswise or diagonally into 1/2-inch slices.
Eggplant, 10 minutes. Slice crosswise or diagonally into 1/2-inch slices.

Dressing:
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Combine the dressing ingredients thoroughly. Toss the grilled vegetables in the dressing. This can be served at room temperature or chilled. Sliced beef may also be added.

From “Texas Cowboy Cooking” by Tom Perini

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