Tonight I’m making an intimate birthday dinner for two. For this special occasion, I’m seizing on the bounty of beautiful (and expensive) wild mushrooms that I’ve been coveting for weeks at my produce market. I’ve been noticing morels ($49/lb), chanterelles ($29/lb), and lobster mushrooms ($49/lb), as well as less rare varieties, like shiitakes and oysters. For the past couple of weeks, however, I’ve been cooking for larger groups, and not inclined to make such a lavish dish for a large group. Tonight, however, is the perfect occasion to buy a little assortment of these wild mushrooms, since I’m only cooking for two. I’ve selected chanterelles, morels and shiitakes (left to right, below).
There are so few ingredients in this dish, its’ outcome is totally dependent on the quality of those ingredients: mushrooms, garlic, chicken stock, butter and white wine. There are no herbs to mask or intensify the flavor of the mushrooms (just a sprinkle of parsley at the end to brighten the dish).
The chicken stock should be good, intense homemade stock. One of the most valued flavoring agents in my freezer is an assortment of unassuming little ziploc bags which contain the drippings from various roast chickens and turkeys. These drippings get frozen with their layer of fat, then the fat is easily scraped off once they’re frozen. They get diluted with water (or tossed into a soup or stew) and provide the richest little bursts of flavor you’ll ever taste in a kitchen! One of these packets will be the chicken stock in my pasta tonight.
This dish should be made and eaten at the last minute, although you can make the sauce and let it rest for about 20 minutes if you’re having an antipasto before the pasta. In that case, simply wait to boil the pasta until after the first course is eaten, then reheat the sauce briefly, toss in the pasta and serve immediately.
Tonight we’re having a beautiful caprese salad as a first course (maybe the last one of the season) with some tomatoes I’ve had ripening for a week on my window sill.
After the salad, we’ll have the pasta plus a vegetable on the side–swiss chard–boiled, then sauteed with olive oil and salt pork.
Pappardelle with Wild Mushrooms
8 oz. egg pappardelle
1 lb assorted wild mushrooms (I used 1/3 lb chanterelles, 1/3 lb shiitakes, 1/3 lb morels)
3 cloves garlic, split
1/2 c white wine
1 c homemade chicken stock (or drippings from a roast chicken)
2 tbls fresh chopped parsley
6 tbls butter
2 tbls olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
grated parmigiano for sprinkling
Prepare mushrooms at the last moment prior to cooking:
For shiitakes: remove stems from and discard. Wipe any loose soil from their surfaces with a damp paper towel. Slice tops into 1/2″ lengths.
For chanterelles, rinse quickly under running water and dry with paper towels. Slice larger ones into bite-size pieces.
For morels, slice in half lengthwise and rinse with sprayer to dislodge any particles of dirt from their honecomb exteriors. Place in a deep bowl of water to allow any remaining soil to dislodge. Repeat once or twice more if there is still a lot of dirt in the water. Drain in strainer and set aside.
In a broad skillet with olive oil and 3 tbls butter, saute garlic until just golden. Add mushrooms and saute on medium heat.
Continue sauteing for about 3 minutes, then sprinkle with salt and pepper (about a half-teaspoon of salt and a quarter teaspoon of black pepper). Raise heat and add wine. Reduce wine until there is only a glaze remaining in the pan. Add stock and half the parsley. Lower heat to simmer.
Drop pasta in boiling salted water. When pasta is cooked, add to skillet, along with a half-cup of pasta cooking liquid, the remainder of the butter, and the parsley. Toss and serve immediately with plenty of grated parmigiano.