Mushrooms are scary. Eat the wrong one, and it can kill you or make you think you’re Jesus (luckily, if you think you’re Jesus and it kills you, you can raise yourself from the dead). As a child, I absolutely loathed raw mushrooms in salads at pizza restaurants. That was my first impression of mushrooms: these spongy, weird, white things that ruin a very crisp experience. Blech.
Here’s a friendly tip: make yourself buy an exotic ingredient even if you’re not sure what you’re going to do with it.
For example, a few weeks ago I was at the Spice Station in Silverlake and I bought a little bag of white truffle salt. I bought it because after sniffing from the giant jar of it, I was like: “Whoah, that’s really potent and really smells like white truffles.” A small bag cost about $10 or so which is way less than you’d pay for an actual white truffle. And knowing that I had it, I kept my eyes open later that week at the farmer’s market for anything that might work well with it; which is how I ended up buying a bag of chanterelle mushrooms.
It’s a known fact that chefs prize chanterelles more than any other mushrooms. In one of the cookbooks that I own (I forget which one), the chef/author instructs: “If you ever see chanterelles, buy them.”
And so it was that when I first saw chanterelles at the Hollywood farmer’s market more than a week ago, I kind of freaked out. I froze. I was like, “Oh my God! I’m supposed to buy these!” But a small bag of them cost $10 and I felt scared. So I didn’t buy them, mentioned the experience on Twitter, and my followers scolded me. Chef Sara Jenkins Tweeted to me, “So easy to cook! Saute w/ butter, thyme, parsley, toss w/ penne and parmigiano! Easy!” Emboldened, I made a point to buy chanterelles the next time that I saw them; and sure enough, this past Sunday, that’s precisely what I did.
Here’s our latest video from Food2, featuring beloved Italian chef Cesare Casella (of Salumeria Rosi). Chef Casella (who’s also the dean of Italian studies at the French Culinary Institute) teaches us a technique so effective, I’ll never make risotto any other way again:
For those of you who can’t watch the video, here’s the recipe (after the jump)…
When I’m home alone and making dinner for myself, my standards change dramatically. If Craig’s there (and he usually is), I know he has certain expectations about what constitutes a dinner. That’s fair, because most people do. But alone? My standards go out the window and I just improvise a meal with whatever I have on hand. And the other night, while Craig was in London showing his movie at the Raindance Film Festival, I happened to have the following on hand: mushrooms, thyme, cream and bread. That’s why I decided to make something I’d never made before, something I wasn’t even sure constituted a proper dinner. That something was creamed mushrooms on toast.
How does dinner happen?
It happens in many ways. We ask the person we’re with, “What are you in the mood for?” or we just pick up the phone and dial the Thai place down the street or the pizza place around the corner. Or, if we have the ingredients, we make a quick bowl of pasta and if we’re even more inspired we head to the store and buy ingredients for that recipe we’ve been meaning to try.
The best, though, is when dinner happens organically. When one event leads to another event and by the end of the chain you have a tasty, unexpected meal before you. That’s what happened Sunday night when I made the dinner you see above: a very strange pairing of cauliflower soup and braised lobster mushrooms. How did that happen? Well it all started with stock…