My friend Lisa was there at the very beginning of this blog. Six years ago, she and I would have debates about the worthiness of olives, we’d sing songs about pumpkin cake, and often we’d cook together. Then I moved far away to a country called Brooklyn and even though Lisa and I still saw each other socially, we’d rarely cook together. Three years passed. In that time, my cooking improved immeasurably and Lisa got engaged. Life is funny that way. And now that I’m back in Manhattan and Lisa still has an appetite I decided to invite Lisa, her fiance Eric, our friend Ricky and his new boyfriend David over for a sumptuous feast. Only problem: Lisa still is (and always has been) a vegetarian. What would I make for dinner?
Travel through my archives, and you may note that when I have people over for dinner I almost always serve meat. There’s something about serving meat at dinner parties–whether it’s braised meat (like short ribs or lamb necks) or big roasts (like a pork loin or a whole roasted duck)–that inspires “oohs” and “ahhs” from the audience. It’s difficult to get the same reaction with cauliflower.
Complicating the equation was the fact that five of the six dinner guests (Eric, Ricky, David, Craig and myself) were big carnivores. It wouldn’t be enough just to make a salad and a big cheese casserole (though I considered it): I was cooking to impress. What dish would satisfy both the blood-thirsty meat eaters and the meat-averse vegetarian? I didn’t want to cook something meaty and extravagant for the five and just a side dish for Lisa; I wanted to make something everyone could love.
Enter my friend Deb of Smitten Kitchen. You may know Smitten Kitchen as the most beautiful, amazing, inspiring food blog ever. Every time I visit, I get very, very hungry. So I asked Deb what I could make for this dinner party that would meet all this criteria and Deb wrote back: “I know! I know! Mushroom Bourguignon! It’s all of the proshness of the beef version but vegetarian-friendly.”
I clicked the link and there was the answer: Mushroom Bourguignon.
What a perfect solution. I spent a few hours working on this and the results were pretty incredible: a thick, meaty stew without any meat and all the excitement and aroma of a Bourguignon made with beef.
Seriously, the smell of the garlic, the mushrooms and the red wine cooking is so intoxicating, no guest would be unhappy walking into your apartment if you were making this for dinner. And served on egg noodles, it’s incredibly hearty and good.
We started with fried chickpeas from Food52 to snack on with wine:
Then an endive salad with Meyer lemon and, for dessert, flourless chocolate cake (recipe here).
Look at the happy-satisfied David, shocked at how delightful a vegetarian dinner party can be:
I was doubtful too but now I’m a convert: it’s fun to cook for vegetarians. If there’s a vegetarian in your life you’ve avoided having over to dinner, let this meal inspire you. You won’t miss the meat: promise.
recipe by Deb Perelman of Smiten Kitchen
[Note: I doubled this recipe to serve six people and that was plenty, plus leftovers.]
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 pounds portobello mushrooms, in 1/4-inch slices (save the stems for another use) (you can use cremini instead, as well) [Note from Adam: I used a combination of both!]
1/2 carrot, finely diced
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup full-bodied red wine
2 cups beef or vegetable broth [obviously, I went vegetarian for Lisa]
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup pearl onions, peeled [I used frozen ones that I thawed]
Egg noodles, for serving
Sour cream and chopped chives or parsley, for garnish (optional)
Heat the one tablespoon of the olive oil and one tablespoon of butter in a medium Dutch oven or heavy sauce pan over high heat. Sear the mushrooms until they begin to darken, but not yet release any liquid — about three or four minutes. Remove them from pan.
[Note: I found it difficult not to cook the mushrooms past the liquid stage because I love mushrooms when they get really cooked and golden and toasty; however, after some experimentation, I realized why Deb has you do it this way: the mushrooms will shrink a LOT if you cook them all the way through, and they won’t retain any semblance of textural meatiness which is what you’re going for here. So take them out just as they start to give off their water.]
Lower the flame to medium and add the second tablespoon of olive oil. Toss the carrots, onions, thyme, a few good pinches of salt and a several grinds of black pepper into the pan and cook for 10, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for just one more minute.
Add the wine to the pot, scraping any stuck bits off the bottom, then turn the heat all the way up and reduce it by half. Stir in the tomato paste and the broth. [I also added more salt here.] Add back the mushrooms with any juices that have collected and once the liquid has boiled, reduce the temperature so it simmers for 20 minutes, or until mushrooms are very tender. Add the pearl onions and simmer for five minutes more.
Combine remaining butter and the flour with a fork until combined:
Stir it into the stew. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 more minutes. If the sauce is too thin, boil it down to reduce to the right consistency. Season to taste.
To serve, spoon the stew over a bowl of egg noodles, dollop with sour cream (optional) and sprinkle with chives or parsley.