November 11, 2007

Wild Mushrooms

I'd planned to start dinner with some pan-smoked fish, after I accidentally (what was I thinking?) discarded last week's duck pastrami. But the fish at the local Museum didn't inspire me. The mushrooms, on the other hand, were interesting: the new, larger museum has lots of interesting (and insanely-priced) mushrooms. So, I grabbed some chanterrelles and a small assortment of odd mushrooms — about a pound in all — and adapted a pasta recipe from Susan Goin with sauteed mushrooms, roasted pecans, and breadcrumbs.

I have 3/4C of beautiful, freshly browned breadcrumbs made from the ends of a nice loaf of challah. I forgot to sprinkle them on the pasta before serving. I am an idiot. But if you happen to want some great breadcrumbs, here they are.

Two key things. First, I sauteed the mushrooms aggressively. No sweating, no gentle flame. Very hot pan, 1T oil, bang. Let them sit; turn; done. Now do the other half. (The mushrooms can cool on a plate; they'll be heated through later.)

Second key: Peter Merholz's pasta trick. Salt the pasta water liberally. Very liberally. Stop the pasta way early -- like 4 minutes before its done. Reserve some pasta water (I used about 1C). Drain the pasta, and put it in a large sautée pan over modest heat. Add the mushrooms, the roasted pecans (or hazlenuts, or what you will) and the reserved pasta water, and let it cook and reduce until the pasta is ready. (You might need to add a little extra water). The pasta water will reduce to an intensely creamy, mushroomy pasta sauce. Plate the pasta (warm the plates!) and then remember to add the breadcrumbs.