Thursday, March 08, 2007

Tastefully Challenged

My friend Erin says there's no such thing as a recipe gone bad. It merely tastes like something you didn't quite intend, and in order to fix the recipe one must simply name the concoction correctly. Then, the dish will taste exactly as you intended it to, and the result will have been a tremendous success. For example, one day when I substituted All Spice for Nutmeg in some homemade pudding (the result was nearly inedible), we called it both "Holiday Pudding" and a day. There have been many a "Rock Cake" created in my kitchen and even a little "Crumble Pie". One time, the "Tongue Tingling Omlet" (third picture down) made an appearance, though before that it was "Heartbreak Even Tomato" (it tasted too good to bother revealing the heartburn that resulted - it was worth it). Maybe my favorite was "This Almost Gave Us Food Poisoning Swordfish", though we'll never really know what "That Thing That Tori Ate Instead of Us" would have been like had we actually eaten it. Perhaps the ones that I never posted about were the ones that required, well, that most drastic re-naming, shall we say?

Today's recipe is an interesting one. What is it, exactly? A soup? A ravioli filling? A sauce? A garnishment? A base to simmer tofu in? A sandwich spread? Something to dip crackers in?

I still have no idea.

Despite this recipe's status of non-identity due to its unique tastefully challenged finale, and this is the funny part, I really like it. Or, at least I think I ought to like it. Or, maybe if I give it the right name, I'll like it. Since getting this level of powerful, pure, knock your socks off mushroom flavor into a dish was my goal, I succeeded entirely (err, a bit overenthusiastically), and I am damn well determined to find a use for it. I refuse to allow this interestingly intense dish to go wayside with the Better Left Forgotten Cookies. That's why I am posting here. I set the challenge to you, few readers: what would you use this for?

It started out with an idea for mushroom leek soup. I wanted something very, very mushroomy (watch out what you wish for). I nixed the garlic, added only the barest minimum of broth, and simmered away a variety of mushrooms with leeks, celery, mushrooms, and almost nothing else - not even any cream. I pureed the whole thing and tried to serve it as soup, which is where Greg and I ran into a little trouble. It was simply too rich to eat as soup. One spoonful and a person felt so overwhelmed with mushroom flavor that there simply wasn't any need to... have another spoonful. It wasn't a bad flavor, exactly, it just wasn't the right form. It would be like dipping a spoon into a bowl full of vodka cream sauce. The sauce might be fantastic, but straight up without the appropriate pasta base? No sir, thank you very much.

Speaking of pasta, and having anticipated this problem somewhat (due to a few pre-serving taste tests), I had already made a very light pasta dish to go with this Soup-Hopeful: gemelli tossed with steamed broccoli, spinach, a dash of olive oil, garlic and a little grated pecorino cheese. Greg and I cautiously spooned tiny amounts of the Dish-Without-A-Purpose over the Very-Purposeful-Pasta and took a weary bite.

Better. The burst of mushroom flavor was well complemented by the green, fresh bite of the spinach and broccoli. But still, it was not right. The mushroom flavor was just too much.

A few ideas:
- Nix most of the broth (say 1 cup total) and braise the mushrooms and leeks together for a pate of sort (cracker topping? sandwich spread? ravioli stuffing? lasagna?)
- Thin out with extra broth and serve as soup. Maybe not. Ugh. It's really, really rich. There needs to be another flavor, not just a dilution.
- Use as-is over a baked potato? Baked on top of chicken?
- Greg's idea: use in a risotto?

I really don't know, but I'd love to hear what you'd do to this recipe to fix it. I still have something of this Mushroom Unknown left to use up - so if you think of something good I'll try it and let you know how it goes!!

Flavorful Mushroom Something
Serves? If I knew what it was I could wager a guess

1/4 cup olive oil
3 large leeks
3 large celery ribs
3 cups vegetable broth
5 oz hen of the wood fresh mushrooms
5g dried black trumpet mushrooms
10g dried porcini mushrooms
1 tbsp salt (or to taste)
freshly grated black pepper
parsley to garnish

  1. Split leeks down the center and slice into 1/2" wide semicircles. Float leeks in large bowl of cold water. Immerse and then drain water. Repeat for three full rinses of the leeks
  2. Slice celery into 1/2" semicircles
  3. Add celery, leeks and olive oil to a heavy bottomed soup pot. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until very soft and caramelized. Once vegetables begin to stick, deglaze with vegetable brother, cover and continue cooking for 45 minutes to an hour
  4. Meanwhile, rehydrate dried mushrooms in 1 cup boiling water. Take out rehydrated mushrooms and chop finely with fresh mushrooms, reserving fluid for later use.
  5. Add chopped mushrooms to soup pot. Strain reserved fluid into pot through several layers of cheesecloth.
  6. Cover and continue cooking as before, until the 45 minutes to an hour time is up. Cool slightly and puree in a blender or food processor until smooth.
  7. Season to taste


Anonymous said...

I vote for the spread because one of my favorite dishes was a flat bread with a wonderful mushroom topping. I wish I could recreate.

I also feel that it would be good with a meat, like chicken, it might mellow the mushroom.

Anonymous said...

The same thing happened to me with an onion soup a while ago. What I did is use it as the flavor base for a potato tart, yep, I added some cream cheese, eggs and milk to the soup, put boiled potatoes (I used part of the soup and some water to boil) and mozarella squares over a prebaked pie crust, poured the mix over the potatoes and the cheese. Sprikled just a tiny bit of parmesan and baked it until it was nice and golden. You can see pictures here

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Erin sounds like a smart cookie! And I'll have some of your flavorful mushroom something. With the mushroom medley, it must be so woodsy and fragrant. I'm with Greg-pair it with risotto or on even polenta. Yum!