Do you like mushrooms? If so, you’re going to want to stop reading right after the ingredients list and head to the store so you can make this tonight. Really. Do it. You will not be disappointed.
After a bit of confusion at the public library, we finally got hold of their only copy of Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home. We really requested it on a whim; we thought, sure, it’ll be fun to look through, but all the recipes will be way too complex, or they’ll have ingredients we can never find, and techniques that are almost impossible to pull off in anything less than a professional kitchen. We were wrong. Instead, most the recipes seem pretty accessible to the home cook with just a bit of patience, one of the — at least — three Ps of cooking or baking, the others being practice and product (ingredients). Looking through the book, we saw that we had most of the ingredients for today’s dish, but we did modify it a bit to match what we had in the house.
Serves 2 as a large main.
The original recipe called for a pound of fresh wild mushrooms. We had to go with dried, but it was still a superb dish. Whatever you choose, make sure the mushrooms are a variety that have a lot of flavor. If you do use fresh, you’ll need about a cup of vegetable broth in place of the reserved mushroom liquid. For the onion, we went with a mild, sweet onion, a Glendale Little Gold Sweetie, to be exact. The original recipe called for shallots, which we almost never have in the house. For Parmesan cheese, get the best, and that means avoid “the green can.”
Procedure in detail:
Mise en Place. This recipe comes together pretty quickly, so we really suggest that you have everything ready as much as possible. Chop the onions, the mushrooms, and even get the pasta water boiling before you start. That way, it’s available right when you need it. It really helps.
Drain mushrooms. Sometimes the dried mushrooms have a bit of grit in them, so we’ll drain them through a coffee filter placed in a funnel to eliminate the grit in the broth, and then rinse each mushroom under running water to eliminate any remaining grit. It’s disconcerting to bite into a small piece of sand while dining.
Heat oil. Here’s the secret to this dish, or at least one of the secrets. Heat your canola oil on medium heat until it is very hot. You want it almost to the point where it smokes, so your mushrooms will brown and seal in some of their juices.
Sauté mushrooms. You want to do this in two batches. Again, this is so the mushrooms brown, sealing in their juices, but don’t boil in the juices that leak out. So, toss in about 1/2 of the mushrooms, making sure they’re in a single layer. Let them sauté, without stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, our until they’ve browned. Then, shake them around, and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Season. Season with salt and freshly-ground black pepper, transfer to a bowl, and set aside. Now, cook the remaining mushrooms in the same fashion, adding more oil if necessary.
Add onion. Return all the mushrooms to the skillet, and immediately add the onions. Sauté these over medium heat until they’re tender. It will take only a minute or two.
Add butter. Drop 2 tablespoons of butter into the pan in four pieces. Stir and cook, still over medium heat, until the mushrooms are glazed and shiny.
Add broth. Stir in the reserved mushroom broth and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, again in four pieces so it melts rapidly, and whisk until emulsified. We had no problem doing that, even with a wooden spoon. However, if you have problems with the oil and broth staying separate, the original instructions suggest adding a tablespoon or two of water.
Add vinegar. Stir in the red wine vinegar and remove from heat.
Add pasta. Now, stir in the cooked pasta. Even though we didn’t say so in the instructions, you should have cooked the pasta while you were sautéing the mushrooms, so that pasta and the mushrooms would be done at the same time. Using freshly scratched pasta really helps, since it cooks so rapidly. And, the pappardelle shapes are just about the easiest shape to deal with, too.
Serve. Transfer to shallow bowls, and top with a generous amount of Parmesan cheese.
We both loved this dish. It’s really a great dinner, fairly simple to put together, yet full of flavors and textures, that made us just gobble it down and wish for more, even though we were quite full. We’ve already discussed making this one again, thinking that it might be a possibility for an upcoming family get-together/vacation, partly because it’s so fast to put together, and because it’s so satisfying. While it’s unlikely that we’ll eat at one of Thomas Keller’s restaurants, we can at least say that we’ve had one of his dishes, and now understand why so many people flock there to eat. Easily five stars.