Wild Mushroom Open-Faced Sandwich

Open Sandwich

Definitely a funny business, this food blogging stuff. I read a great post from Joy The Baker about ways to improve your blogging skills. One thing she emphasized was that readers never really see the “behind-the-scenes” of writing a food blog. For example, would you have guessed that it took me 170 photos to get this one just how I wanted it? A lot of times I just stop myself midway and ask, what’s the point of any of this? Does anybody care? Is anybody even trying these recipes? An evil tiny man in my head tells me no (I so want this evil man to be wrong!)

Maybe you like this photo, or maybe it doesn’t quite give you the tingles that I hoped it would. I have to say though that my photo-taking skills have gone leaps and bounds since my first post – and not because I got a super fancy camera, but because I, maybe like yourself, spend lots of time ooh-ing and aah-ing at other beautiful food blog photos. I won’t say my photos are top-notch – when I look at blogs like Sips & Spoonfuls and Back to the Cutting Board I have to drink my tea and sigh in envy, all the pictures are showstoppers….but there are things anyone can do to make food photos go from good to “gobble me up.” If you’re looking for some tips on how to improve your photos, feel free to check out this article I wrote for The Daily Meal, 10 tips for gorgeous food photos.

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>Wild Mushroom Soup

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I’m not sure when it started, but I’ve been harboring a love for wild mushrooms, and I’m happy to play around with new ways to prepare them. I decided to make a soup with mushrooms last night because it’s starting to get frigid in Paris and I find that the best thing on a winter evening is a hot bowl of home-made soup.  Fortunately, this dish is extremely simple to make (as I find most soups are). 

Next time I make it, I will probably play around with the types of mushrooms I use, and I definitely think I will try making this with several different kinds of mushrooms (button, wild, oyster, etc.).  I hope this will at least provide a good starting off point for you, if not the final destination!  Eat while hot and please enjoy it tremendously.

Wild Mushroom Soup – serves 1

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup wild mushrooms, washed and sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 1/4-cup beef broth
2 tablespoons milk (optional)

1. Heat olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.
2.  Add onions, and sautee until onion softens slightly, about 5 minutes.
3.  Add the mushrooms, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, and sautee until mushrooms have softened and just begin to crisp, about 10 minutes.
4.  Put in the garlic and thyme, and sautee one minute.
5.  Pour in the beef broth, and bring to a simmer; reduce heat to low, and cook gently for about 20 minutes more.
6.  Transfer soup to a blender or food processor, and blend for about 10 seconds.
7.  Return to the saucepan and heat gently; add milk if using.  Cook until hot, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

>Steak and Wild Mushrooms in a Cognac Cream Sauce

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This is another recipe that falls under both categories of taking less than 20 minutes to prepare, and requiring only 5 ingredients.  As I believe I firmly expressed already, I really like me a good pepper steak.  And although when it comes to steak I generally believe less is more, I have no problem experimenting with mushrooms and a bit of liquor.  For me, mushrooms are like wine and olives, in that I’ve learned to appreciate them as I’ve grown older (not to say I’m old, but you know what I mean). 

Wild mushrooms are fantastic, because they provide such a deep, earthy flavor, and they are relatively easy to work with (they let off a bit of liquid while cooking, which is good for creating sauces).  Today at the outdoor market near my apartment, I had the luxury of choosing between several variations of mushrooms.

There were more mushroom choices than I could fit in this photo, but the ones above seemed the best-looking.  I chose the dark mushrooms in the back center, which are dauntingly enough called trompettes de la mort (trumpets of death – hmmm).  I’ve had them a few times before and they are fantastic, although I’m sure any other type of wild mushroom will provide an equally great flavor.

In any case, I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did - as soon as I took the first bite, I closed my eyes and thanked whoever’s listening for creating ingredients that can make food like this.  I mentioned it in my recipe for steak au poivre, but I think it’s worth mentioning again: the quality of this dish depends largely on the quality of the steak – please buy the nicest looking strip steak you can find!  Enjoy with a nice glass of cabernet sauvignon or merlot, and this makes for a high-class meal (at a pretty low cost!)
May your next meal be filled with happiness and fullfilment. 
Steak and Wild Mushrooms in a Cognac Cream Sauce – serves 1

1 6-8 oz top-loin strip steak
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4-cup cognac
1 cup wild mushrooms
2 tbsp heavy cream

1.  Wash and pat dry the steak.  Cover completely with fresh ground pepper, and sprinkle with salt.
2.  Heat oil in a small skillet over high heat.  Once the oil is hot, add the steak and cook until desired doneness, about 8 minutes for medium-rare, turning once halfway through.
3.  Once steak is cooked, remove from heat, and cover to keep warm.  Add cognac to the same skillet (remove skillet from heat while doing this, to avoid any possible accidents).  Return to heat, and cook until cognac reduces slightly, about 2 minutes.
4.  Add mushrooms, a large pinch of salt a touch of pepper, and sautee until mushrooms are softened, about 3 minutes.
5.  Add cream, and stir to combine; once cream starts to simmer, remove from heat and pour over steak.

>Lasagne w/ Wild Mushrooms

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My lifelong friend, and a very dear one at that, is in Paris for the week, and I would be completely lying if I said that as soon as I knew she would be in Paris with her boyfriend (which was a couple of months ago) I didn’t think about having her over for dinner and what I would prepare.
So alas, she agreed to come over last night with her boyfriend whom I would be meeting for the first time. This friend of mine is brilliant in every way and I hold her opinion in high regard; needless to say, I wanted this dinner to be perfect.
So, I got to thinking about what would make for some good dinner options. I had been craving some sort of mushroom dish for the past couple of nights, and I found a wild mushroom lasagne recipe that features the bold earthiness of dried porcini mushrooms – so soulful and satisfying.
I wanted to make a simple salad to start off the dinner, and I chose a very basic endive salad with a red wine dijon vinaigrette – simple, tasty, and light.
For an additional starter, I knew I wanted my friend to try pissaladière – it’s so unique in flavor with slowly caramelized onions, salty anchovies and olives, and a crispy pastry crust, that it makes a bold and enriching statement. It really is amazing, I find myself craving it at random times throughout the day – the flavors stay with you!
Of course, the glorious cheese plate had to make an appearance – and it was the star of the night! The real winner on the cheese plate was a 2-year aged gouda that I got from a farmer’s market in the 7th arrondissement; this cheese is a beautiful combination of sharp, nutty, and creamy.
Finishing off the dinner with two large maccarons, flavored with salted butter and caramel, and a small strawberry tart, we were successfully stuffed. And happy as clams.
So, I hope that anyone who is reading this (although I’m slowly becoming certain that I’m writing these recipes for no one but myself) can find inspiration in these dishes to create his or her own five-course dinner at home, and bring joy, passion, and love to a dinner table. The recipe for the endive salad is in the next post, and the recipe for the mushroom lasagne is what follows.
To make the filling for the lasagne, you’ll need 2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms, 1 1/2 pounds white mushrooms, 2 large zucchini, 1 onion, 2 garlic cloves, 5 tablespoons butter, 6 tablespoons Sherry vinegar, 4 sprigs of fresh thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring 2 1/2 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan; remove from heat, then add in the porcini mushrooms. Let the porcinis soak for about 20 minutes, and then remove them from the water, squeezing them out to get rid of excess liquid. Strain the porcini to remove grit and pat them dry. Chop them up, then place them in a large bowl. Simmer the porcini water until reduced to about 1/4 cup, then place in the bowl with the porcinis.
Chop up the white mushrooms, onion, garlic, and thyme, and cut the zucchini into 1/4-inch dice. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium heat, and once it has stopped foaming, add about 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar. Add 1/3 of the mushrooms, and cook until most liquid has evaporated from the mushrooms and they’re beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Place them in the bowl with the porcini mushrooms. Repeat this process with remaining mushrooms in two batches, adding them to the porcini mixture. Next, cook one more tablespoon butter, and cook zucchini until tender, about 8 minutes. Add to the porcini mixture. Cook final tablespoon butter (talk about excessive use of this dairy product!), and cook onion until soft, about 4-5 minutes. Add garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and chopped thyme and cook for about 30 seconds, then add to the mushroom mixture. You can make this 1 day ahead, and keep it refrigerated.
To make the sauce, you’ll need 1 stick of butter, 1/2-cup flour, 4 cups whole milk, about 1 1/2 cups parmesan, 2 teaspoons dijon mustard, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. In a medium saucepan melt butter over medium-low heat and whisk in the flour. Cook the mixture (which I learned is called a roux), whisking constantly, for 3 minutes. Slowly whisk in milk, and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 3 minutes, whisking occasionally. Add the parm, mustard, salt, and pepper. This can also be made a day ahead and refrigerated.
Ok, we’re almost done now, phew. To prepare the lasagne, you’ll need about 15 small lasagne sheets, 3 small mozzarella balls or 2 large ones, and 3/4 cup grated parmesan. Turn your oven on to 400 degrees. Place one layer of filling on the bottom of a 9×9-inch baking pan (you can really use any size, this was all I had), and then cover with one layer of lasagne sheets, making sure the sheets don’t overlap. Spread a layer of filling over the sheets, and top again with a layer of lasagne. Press down softly to seal everything together.
Rip up your mozzarella balls, and spread half of them over the pasta sheets. Repeat these steps one more time, ending with a layer of lasagne on top. Sprinkle parmesan over the lasagne, and bake for about 35-40 minutes.
Serve with a nice bottle of red wine, and you’ll be feeling fantastic. Santé!

>Omelette with Wild Mushrooms, Shallot, and Emmental

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Got to Paris this morning; the jetlag is finally hitting me so I’ll keep this as short as possible.

Overall, I am pretty happy with my apartment. My dreams of having a romantic Parisian apartment with a wrought-iron balcony were shattered when I learned I was living over a Sushi Express, but there’s a lot of positive to this place so I don’t mind. For example, the kitchen is pretty sweet.
And one thing I’ve noticed in France already is that eating is taken to another level here. For lunch I sat at a typical French brasserie with a friend from Lyon, and we sat there for three hours! And this apparently is how French people eat. Slowly, savoring not only the food but the moment as well. With all of the fresh ingredients available to them, I don’t blame them either!
There are a lot of utensils that I’ll need to pick up over the next couple of days, but since today was a long day I decided to make dinner pretty simple – an omelette with mushrooms, shallots, parsley, and emmental cheese. Super easy and delicious.

Using wild mushrooms adds an intense, deep, and smoky flavor to the omelette, which pairs beautifully with a lighter-flavored cheese like emmental. Fresh herbs plus the tanginess of shallots adds even more depth to the flavor.

Omelette with Wild Mushrooms, Shallot, and Emmental – serves 1
2 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, chopped
2 oz wild mushrooms, such as oyster, shiitake, or chanterelle mushrooms, ends cut off and sliced
1 large handful fresh parsley, chopped
2 eggs (or 3 if you want to make this dish a little heavier)
about 1 oz emmental cheese (you can eyeball this to make it more or less cheesy to your taste)

1. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a medium or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallot and mushrooms, and sautee until slightly browned, about 5 minutes
2. Remove shallot and mushrooms from heat, stir in about a teaspoon of parsley, and set aside
3. In a small bowl beat together the eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper
4. Melt remaining 1 tbsp. butter in a small skillet over medium heat, and once the butter is bubbling, add the eggs
5. Cook the eggs until done, sliding the sides of the eggs forward to let the runny parts reach the bottom of the pan (see below)

6. Add the cheese, then add almost all of the shallot and mushroom mixture (saving a tiny bit for garnish). Fold the omelette over, slide onto a plate, and sprinkle remaining mushroom mixture and parsley on top. Serve with some sliced French bread!
I’m thinking fish in a white wine sauce tomorrow…