Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mushrooms are in Tasty Abundance Right Now! Cook with Them this Holiday Season and Watch Your Dinner Guests Fall in Love…

If you look under “M” in any of my cookbooks, you’ll note that mushrooms, nature’s hidden treasures, occupy quite a bit of space. I love them because they lend earthy flavors with subtle, smoky undertones and meaty textures to everything they’re in. The health benefits of mushrooms are compelling enough that this October, for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, some cultivators are packaging their mushrooms in pink cartons. When I prepare some of my favorite recipes in which shitake, portabello or baby bellas star, I have to admit I’m not thinking of what their medicinal mushroom healing powers may be; I’m just delighted with how many parties and dinners they’ve taken me through with such great style!

De ja Mushroom
I’ve used pounds of mushrooms over the years to make warm mushroom salads with maple lime dressing, mushroom scallion pancakes with sherry creamed chicken—not to mention an Old Fashioned Mushroom Soup, laid out in this year’s Open House Halloween party plan. Anyway you slice ‘em, mushrooms lend a toe curling, savory elegance to all sorts of wild rice and risotto dishes; and where would omeletes and pizzas be without them? It turns out Cooking Light is on exactly the same page as me in cooking, preparation and storage tips for mushrooms, so you can have a quick brush up course before ripping into your next carton of fantastic fungi.

If any of my California Readers Make it to this Festival, please post on my Facebook wall! We foodies are hungry for photos and details!
This time of year, a foodie can get excited about mushrooms—especially in certain parts of the country, where the crisp cool air and autumn rainstorms cause them to grow in succulent abundance. The pun makers out there are saying “let the fun(gi) begin”, advertising big events for mushroom season, like Mendocino County’s annual 10-day Wine & Mushroom Festival (this year from Friday, November 5th through Monday, November 15th).

For those of my readers who don’t know where Mendocino is, picture the gorgeous wine country in northern California, where mushrooms a lot of us have never heard of still manage to captivate the taste buds. I’m talking Candy Cap Mushrooms, with their intense maple-syrup flavor, and award winning harvests of chanterelles, porcinis, morels and hedgehogs. Oh my! The list includes the familiar, like shiitake, cremini, portobello, oyster, wood ear and white. When you make a day of browsing Chinese markets—not a half bad idea if you make it to the Golden State—you will find enoki, porcini, beech, and more asian mushrooms than there are mushroom spores—do your part as a foodie and take notes while you shop!

Getting into the Gravy: what I’m doing with my next batch of mushrooms
Now that I’ve sufficiently covered how great mushrooms are, it’s time to get to the gravy of this article; my favorite accent to so many favorite entrees, mushrooms aren’t just low in calories, sodium-free, fat-free and cholesterol-free—but pretty much the best darn staple of flavor you can put into gravy for the perfect holiday centerpiece: Standing Rib Roast with Red Wine Mushroom Gravy. Both traditional and classy, this entrée is ideal for a holiday dinner party and calls for 2 pounds of button mushrooms—better known as “white mushrooms”, which steal credit as the most actively consumed variety around the world each year. Funny how they’re called “button” since they’re much bigger than the buttons you sew back on shirts—they remind me more of knobs. However, you choose to describe them, sautéing the mushrooms in the roasts’ pan drippings is what makes them the very definition of divine—and that’s before you take it to the next level, by adding a full cup of the richest, darkest red wine in your house.

Between where we are now and the waiting New Year, there are plenty of reasons to invite the family over for a special dinner. You might say, just after Halloween and right before Thanksgiving Day that the possibilities are mushrooming!

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