Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Sometimes, it's just about the butter

I didn't start thinking that it was about the butter, but by the time the evening was over, butter was clearly the theme. It started out being about the mushrooms. I'd been wanting to play with mushrooms for a long time -- not the white mushrooms, or the criminis, or even those gigantic portobellos that you see in all the stores. No. it was about grown up mushrooms. The ones in those bins at Whole Foods labeled $29 a pound. I didn't know which ones I'd end up with, but that was the mission. Some interesting mushrooms that I'd never cooked with before, and some scallops. In olive oil. With some garlic. Over pasta. Simple.

I'd been wanting to do the mushrooms since Michael Pollan's Omnivores Dilemma, which had a whole chapter on the topic. Mushroom hunting. I believe he was after chantrelles. Or morels. I don't recall. But I was going to try some. It's been a couple of years -- what's taken so long?

I went for the morels. I don't know why. A small handful. Maybe five or six, small to medium. Came to a whopping $3.00. Not even. I figured they'd be enough for me. And I figured right. I thought mushrooms were an autumn thing, but there they were, bins and bins of all sorts. Wonder where they come from. Somehow I don't think they're being hunted in the wild like Pollan hunted his chantrelles.

And then around another corner there were the fiddleheads. Those are spring. They define spring. And there were lots of them. A handful, into the bag. They were the first course. Sauteed in butter. I had intended to add some shallots and garlic, but entirely forgot to add them (they were not wasted, they just made it into the next dish). Simple -- olive oil and butter mixture, with some fiddleheads that had been well rinsed and boiled (simmered really) for 10 minutes. Spring. That's all there is to say. Eat them while you can.

Then the morels. First some shallots and garlic in olive oil and butter, sauteed slowly, until the garlic just started to turn golden. Then the morels, chopped roughly. I figured I'd just saute them until they started to release their liquid into the butter and wilt a bit. Which then did, and which filled the kitchen with that earthy mushroomy aroma that defies description. There's some umami going on there, for sure.

When the kitchen smelled right, I added the scallops, turned those translucent, and then added the cooked ziti. Some salt and pepper, and it was ready. Sometimes, you just hit a home run, and this was one of those times. The butter, olive oil, mushrooms, garlic, shallots, scallops -- they just were made to go together. The flavors blended perfectly, and needed nothing else.

The question now is...what's next with that bin of mushrooms?

No comments:

Post a Comment