Monday, April 06, 2009

Mushrooms à la Grecque: Great Accompaniment for Meat

Heading toward Easter, here's a classy old-fashioned dish for which I worked out the recipe to go with meat and strong-flavored fish dishes, like salmon. It could certainly accompany an Easter ham or roast lamb -- the prized Irish Easter dinner centerpiece of my New England Irish childhood (hint: the lamb needs to be overdone so it practiacally falls off the bones).

Despite the name meaning “in the Greek manner,” mushrooms à la grecque are firmly in the classic French culinary tradition. Quartered mushrooms quickly braised with onions, garlic, olive oil, and a bit of exotic seasoning make an elegant side dish, typically presented at room temperature. But they could equally be served warm with toast points for a luncheon or the appetizer course to a fancy dinner.

These mushrooms go particularly well with a crisp, slightly acidic white wine, such as a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.

Mushrooms à la Grecque

1 pound mushrooms, small sized preferred
1 very small onion or large shallot
1 large lemon (for both zest and juice)
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon fresh or dry oregano
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch of cayenne
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons lemon juice, from the lemon above
Chopped parsley for garnish

Rinse mushrooms, slice 1/8 inch off end of stems. Quarter mushrooms. Cut onion or shallot in half lengthwise, then slice it lengthwise into narrow crescents. Rinse lemon well and rub dry. With vegetable peeler or small knife take off a strip of lemon zest 2-inches long. On board, cut zest crosswise into fine shreds. Squeeze lemon and save juice for later step. Mince garlic.

In heavy bottomed stainless steel or enameled pan simmer onion and lemon zest with olive oil, covering pan and stirring occasionally, until onion is tender and translucent but not browned (8-10 minutes). Add garlic and simmer one minute. Add coriander, oregano, pepper, cayenne, and salt. Stir and simmer a half minute longer. Add water and lemon juice, and simmer several minutes. Add mushrooms. Raise heat, stir, and simmer covered, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Taste a mushroom, and add salt if not fully seasoned.

Remove mushrooms to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Drain any juices from mushrooms back into the pan. Simmer until juices are reduced to a somewhat thick sauce. Add sauce to mushrooms, and allow everything to cool.

Before serving, taste a mushroom and add a little salt if necessary. Serve mushrooms and their sauce in a shallow bowl. Dust generously with chopped parsley.

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