Monday, June 23, 2014

Solstice Pizza Party cures boredom! So does playing with your food...which, btw, almost always results in some fabulous concoction worth writing about. These are the concoctions I served up for a small party Saturday night (sadly, we gorged before snapping pictures of a few of them). Thank god for leftovers. Yep.

when leftovers look this good, you know it was a great party!  leftovers, dontcha know, are windows of opportunity, 'specially the WTFJTII kind. 

Farmers’ Market Griller w/ Garlic Scape Ricotta* (above and below)

Garlic scape pesto folded with lemon zested same-day ricotta, topped with grilled pencil-thin asparagus, saltwort and zucchini, drizzled with buttery extra virgin olive oil and seasoned with Hawaiian black sea salt.
  • Local: Barker’s Farm; Brookford Farm; New Hampshire Mushroom Co.; Wake Robin Farm; Wolf Meadow Farm
  • Regional: Oyster Creek Mushroom Co.
  • Long Distance: Chilean olive oil; lemon; Hawaiian sea salt
*not quite the original product; we made a couple changes before reheating: first we added leftover roasted oyster mushrooms from the 'Potato Leek & Mushroom' pie below. then we added a bit of the raw milk cheddar intended for the 'Apple & Caramelized Onion' pie, and then what the heck, why not add summa them maple-glazed apple slices, and then well we might as well keep on goin' and add summa that Candy Cap mushroom oil.  Super winner.  Where's there a pizza contest when I need one!!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

An Oldie But Goodie: spinach & ricotta stuffed chicken breasts w/ chestnut mushroom marsala

My mother lives in Tamworth, NH and sources her butchered chicken from a farmer there. She inevitably buys too many; guess who's on the receiving end!

This 6+lb bird was heading for the oven as a roaster but a last minute decision to utilize some robust chestnut mushrooms that we picked up at a recent farmers' market led to it being broken down for its breast meat, to be stuffed with deliciousness and eaten rollatini style and bathed in a luxurious Marsala sauce.

My most local farmers' market (a mere mile up the road) provides great access to fresh mushrooms--both cultivated and wild. Chestnut mushrooms, which take 85 days to fruit compared to others that take only 17-19 days, are not only abundant from our source, but a beautiful deep chestnut brown in color, tasty, and super easy to turn into an extravaganza.

With a pound of them from Tuesday's market, it didn't take much convincing, then, to turn to a favorite in this household: stuffed chicken breasts with a silky mushroom Marsala sauce. It was a bonus that I had a brand new bottle of Marsala, and a double bonus that I happened to pick up a container of fresh ricotta from the market!  Might as well go for the hat trick here: I also had spinach from Thursday's market and bacon in the freezer from our recent meat CSA pick-up.  It's great when the stars align, isn't it?

Pre-harvest Chestnut mushrooms, as seen when growing under the watchful eyes at New Hampshire Mushroom Co.
Before starting on the chicken, get the first stage of the mushrooms going (recipe below).

The breasts from this corker of a chicken were quite large, so I cut them in half to create thick cutlets, then butterflied those pieces. With smaller chickens you might not want to push it.  Season both sides with sea salt and fresh ground pepper, clean up your hands, and then move on to the filling.

Spread 2 heaping Tbsp of ricotta evenly over the four splayed pieces to just within a 1/2" of the edges. A handful of torn spinach leaves was piled on top of each ricotta-smeared breast, followed by sprinkles of crispy bacon bits (cooked while I worked on breaking down the chicken).  A hint of nutmeg and a touch of salt completed the filling. When you're ready to roll, have your lengths of butcher string ready. Four 2'-long pieces for these "rollatini" will do it.  There are great sources online for watching the technique of rolling stuffed breasts.  Don't worry about perfect execution.  You should know, too, that fresh ricotta won't ooze out.  This particular filling is a very tidy filling--good for beginners.

Using the same pan that I cooked the bacon in (and the same, minimal fat created), only a touch of cooking oil was needed.  Once at temp, the rolled up chicken breasts were eased gently into place and cooked, rotated to evenly cook all sides, for about 12-15 minutes.  Thickness of butterflied poultry matters.

While the rollatinis are cooking, finish your mushroom sauce (recipe at bottom).

To serve, remove the twine and cut into 3/4" slices on the bias.  Spoon an ample amount of the mushrooms and Marsala sauce all over the top.  We added a homemade pilaf and some braised asparagus spears to our plates.

Release the hounds!

Mushroom Marsala Recipe:

1 pound Chestnut mushrooms, stems pulled apart (thick cluster ends removed)
4 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil (or local sunflower oil, which is nuttier in flavor)
2 Tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 c Marsala wine
2 cups chicken stock
1 Tbsp fresh herbs, such as thyme or savory, chopped

1. Heat half of the butter and the Tbsp of oil in a large saute over medium-high heat. Chestnuts are super easy to work with.  Just pull the stems apart, perhaps split the largest ones in half, and saute the whole load, stirring occasionally, over med heat for 7 or 8 minutes until they're softened and darkened.  Season with salt & pepper, then set aside to cool a bit.

2. Turn the cooked mushrooms out into a bowl.  Heat the remaining butter in the same pan until almost frothy. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk until a paste forms. Deglaze the pan with the Marsala, whisking the paste into a smooth consistency as you stir.  Whisk in the stock and bring to a low boil. Once thickened, add the mushrooms.  Add in chopped fresh herbs if you desire, or let it be.  Check for seasoning.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

True Wild Mushroom Ragu

Sounds better than Polyporus squamosus and Laetiporus sulphureus sauce, doesn't it?
A simple carb dinner was desired tonight, and with a couple pounds of fresh mushrooms in the fridge from yesterday's market exploits, a thick, chunky mushroom ragu of sorts was in order.  Enter, protein!  New Hampshire Mushroom Co., I love you.
"Chicken mushroom" (among other similar names, the Latin of which is Laetiporus sulphureus) is a favorite in this kitchen for its meaty, flavorful, pretty, great freezability (word of the day) properties.  They are very common, abundant in spring and fall, and have no poisonous lookalikes.  but do your research before trodding off!  
The underside of chicken mushroom is very porous: teeny-tiny microscopic pores that look sponge-like and soak up a lot of flavor, making them vegetarian dreams for hearty or otherwise inspired cooking!
This is the squamosus. That brown feathery texture you see is exactly why this mushroom has the nickname "pheasant back" (among other).

Pheasant back is a bracket fungus, and it's the removal of the stem that yielded that opening.  You're looking at two halves of one mushroom.
With deep tube-like pores, the underside of the pheasant back is extremely cool looking.  Some recipes call for scraping it off to reveal even deeper mushroom flavor; flavor, fyi, that is reminiscent of freshly cut watermelon or cucumber.  I left it on, and had no problem detecting that distinct summery, crisp watermelon aroma.
Both pheasant backs and chicken mushrooms have early tender stages and older tough stages.  The pheasant back, I was reminded, has a really tough stem, and thus the inside of the ring is tougher than the outside.  The outer 2" (+/-) of the cap is very tender and easily breaks.

None of this mattered to me for this dish.  The whole shebang went into a food processor, and then got sauteed in Coppal House farm's canola oil (cold pan, cold oil, easy heat!) with local spring leeks and shallot, some garlic, and a sprinkling of sea salt.  I was immediately reminded of linguine con le vongole!

I always think of puzzles with food shots like those above.

After cooking the mushrooms down for 7-8 minutes, I added a splash of red wine and two cans of whole plum tomatoes, and simmered the pot for 15 minutes (which is all any fresh marinara ever needs).  Before adding in fresh herbs (basil and oregano from the garden), I swirled in a decadent balsamic vinegar (read: "syrup") to lift the brightness of the sauce.  A healthy handful of freshly grated, truffled cheese from Wolf Meadow (primo sale al tartufo, a young med-soft cheese) finished the plating.  And, then we ate.  The end.

Simple, quick, easy, weeknight tasty cooking.  Yup, it's what's for dinner.  Just watch out for little beetles that suddenly appear on your cutting board!
No harm was given to this little guy.  It's thriving in a specimen jar in the fridge, complete with a piece of polyporus squamosus.  Until I know what it is and where it's normally found, that's where it shall stay.  (I'm awaiting a Bug ID any time now...) 
Update!  My source at suggests this is Oxyporus rufipennis, a "rove" beetle native to Canada.  No wonder it doesn't mind the cold.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

King Oyster Mushrooms, Scallopini Style

This is a very--and by very, I mean your 10-yr old could make it--easy recipe.  You will die and go to mushroom heaven after you try King Oysters this way.  Forget the steak, these babies are killer good.

A recipe card made for our local farmers' market:
I added just a light swirl of extra virgin olive oil on the finished product...more for photo aesthetics than anything else.  You should also know that we ate half of them before adding pesto.  Yes, they were that good.  Super-good, and we're never going back to store-bought portobellas.