Monday, February 20, 2012

Sometimes I Impress Myself

Sometimes I even impress myself. This time I understood what it means to make a dish where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. 

I started with a vague idea of what I wanted to make: fresh pasta. I made my trip to the farmers market looking for ingredients that would inspire something truly extraordinary; after all I had an audience this time. I stopped by a tent at the farmers market that sells wild mushrooms. Many of the wild mushrooms seem fairly exotic to me. One variety I found particularly intriguing was the Hedgehog mushroom. The ones pictured in the link must be a bit more mature than the ones I bought, I'm sorry I didn't take a picture of the mushrooms I ended up with. These mushrooms are quite delicate with thin stems and a nice golden color on the cap. When I asked the farmer if I could taste a small piece he informed me that eating uncooked wild mushrooms is a very bad idea. Apparently some wild mushrooms can be poisonous when eaten uncooked. I'm so glad I asked. He described the Hedgehog as similar to Chanterelles with a little more sweetness.

When I returned home I looked for a simple pasta recipe that made use of mushrooms and some of the other produce I picked up. I consulted one of my favorite cook books Molto Italiano: 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home by Mario Batali. I found a recipe for Fettuccine with Oyster Mushrooms, Sweet Garlic and Arugula (page 204). This recipe was a perfect place to start. I just needed to make a few substitutions including the Hedgehog mushrooms for the Oyster Mushrooms. Luckily I also bought Arugula as a backup salad option.

The dish was spectacular!

My Recipe for Fettuccine with Hedgehog Mushrooms and Arugula follows

Fettuccine with Hedgehog Mushrooms and Arugula
Based on a recipe for Fettuccine with Oyster Mushrooms, Sweet Garlic and Arugula (page 204) of Molto Italiano: 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at home by Mario Batali.

Serves 3 - 4
  • 1/8 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • 1/4 medium-dry white wine, (Pinot Gris would be a good choice)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 4 ounces arugula
  • 1/8 cup grated Pecorino Ramano

Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add a few tablespoons salt to the water.

Heat a 12 - 14 inch skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and garlic. Saute the garlic until it becomes a light golden brown, 5 - 6 minutes. Add the wine saute for about 1 minute before adding the mushrooms and butter. Saute the mushrooms for about 4 minutes until the begin to soften. Drop the pasta in the boiling water and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Drain the pasta. Taste the sauce and adjust salt and pepper according to taste. Add the drained pasta to the mushrooms and toss to coat the noodles, about 1 minute. Add the arugula and toss until slightly wilted, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and serve immediately topped with the Pecorino Ramano.

Notes: I served the pasta along side a Shaved Fennel and Blood Orange salad (another recipe from the book on page 55, sorry no pictures of the salad). In the original recipe Mario makes mention of the method to make the garlic sweet calling for sweet red vermouth. I didn't have vermouth and decided to substitute wine. I don't think there was any missing flavor and the garlic was quite subtle and had a nice sweet flavor that really complemented the pasta and mushrooms.

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