I'm better now. ~ Ham Pie Sandwiches

02 March 2009

I'm better now.

So I was sick, but not so sick that I couldn't get up and cook at all. John was in Pittsburgh, too, so the ability to stand was necessary and fortunate.

I usually plan some kind of ridiculous cooking while John's gone, if only because I need a project. Usually the food will involve things John hates but I love. This time it was mushrooms and sour cream, in the form of stroganoff.

I guess I could've made beef stroganoff, especially considering the half a pound of ground beef sitting in our freezer patiently waiting for me to have any impulse toward eating it ever again, but no. For one thing, beef stroganoff definitely wants a specific cut: stew beef. That way you can shred it with your fork and get a bunch of chewy strands mixed up with the mushrooms and noodles. I wasn't going to go out and buy stew beef when I already had meat in the freezer. I also wasn't going to make the stuff with ground beef a la my 1972 Betty Crocker that I haven't chucked for some reason.

The real reason, though, is that I've been gradually losing my taste for meat. I certainly haven't lost my taste for mushrooms, though. There.

Mushroom stroganoff

lots of good mushrooms
butter/olive oil
a couple shallots
veg broth
sour cream/vegan equiv
salt, pepper
fresh parsley if you have it
egg noodles or rice

We're going to sear mushrooms, make an extreme dairy sauce, and serve the whole mix over rice or noodles. Egg noodles are the classic set for stroganoff, so that's what I made. Mine were whole wheat, for elimination of gross processed white flour. If you make noodles, start them about 2/3 of the way through sauce reduction. If you make rice, start it in the rice cooker before anything else.

Ok. Get out your mushrooms. Mine were serious, bulky mushrooms from the farmer's market. I wish I'd had more. I don't know what kind they were, but not portabella: they were tall and pretty uniformly thick from stem to cap, with a huge encrustation of dirt still stuck to the ends. It was clearly necessary to wash them. I ended up cutting off the end of each stem too; there was still a little vermiculite from the cultured mushroom bed stuck in one of them. I thought it was pretty funny. Also, can I just say: how awesome would it be to grow mushrooms at home in a bed of peat and vermiculite? So awesome. I'm going to have to give it some serious thought when I start the this year's batch of vegetables.

Anyway. Wash mushrooms in cool water; rub with your fingers to get all the dirt off. Cut off any seriously encrusted bits. Dry the mushrooms, then cut them into thin slices. Since I had such huge ones, I cut off the stems and sliced them and the caps separately. This was fine. I think I used six big mushrooms; I'd use at least ten or twelve button ones. More is better. I love mushrooms.

Melt some butter in a wide frying pan with reasonably high sides. You could also use a straight up 3-quart pot if your frying pans are all super shallow. Toss in the mushrooms, stir to coat in butter, and lay on the paprika. Since paprika is the main seasoning in stroganoff, use a lot. Get your mushrooms good and coated. Sear, flipping the mushrooms around every once in a while, until they've reduced out their liquid, shrunk down, and gotten a bit of golden brown crust on both sides. Flip the mushrooms out of the pan and set them aside for a few minutes.

Add a little more butter to the pan and let it melt while you chop up a couple shallots. Soften the shallots slowly, over medium-low heat. Maybe season them with a little thyme as well. When they're soft, add a cup or so of sour cream. Stir it up and increase the heat a little. When the sauce begins to simmer, add a couple cups of vegetable broth. Simmer it down for ten minutes or so, letting it thicken gradually. Add the mushrooms, stir it up, and continue to simmer for another five minutes, or until the sauce is as thick as you want it. I left mine a little thin since I was hungry and wanted to eat it. Salt sparingly and pepper voluminously.

Now eat it! Egg noodles, big spoonfuls of stroganoff, lots of snipped parsley if you have it. I didn't have any, but that was fine.

I also had the season's first asparagus, steamed over the noodle pan and buttered. So tiny! So awesome to eat with my hands, using the flower end to scrounge up the stroganoff sauce! I actually ate a bunch of it raw later, with some also raw red pepper and I think hummus. That was an excellent plan. Do it! Tiny tender spring asparagus for the win!

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