Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hungarian Mushroom Soup

Because it looked like this outside:

I had only one option.

I believe in diplomacy, and this soup is what middle ground is all about.  This is like a good DTR talk about the potential of a LTR...of soup.  Or whatever.  Meet me half way, okay?

This soup embodies some of the richness that often accompanies mushroom soups in the "cream of" category but stands its ground against being just another dull-ass soup of healthfood yesteryearwater.  In other words, this shit is bomb without making you feel like you just ate one.  And it's totally not boring at the same time (I'm looking at you, chicken noodle... especially when I'm not sick).

Paprika I brought back from Hungary that is probably way too old to use.

I couldn't get my hands on any "wild mushrooms," and didn't feel like foraging 6th Street for anything growing out of all the (usually human) doodoo chilling on the block, so I settled for some baby portabella mushrooms I found on sale.  Though I will confidently say I believe cremini, straight up button mushrooms, or whatever kind you find on sale will work.

With that said, the only adaptation I made was leaving out the "wild" part.  'Cause if I wanted to get wild I wouldn't be eating soup.

Hungarian Wild  Mushroom Soup
slightly adapted from Edible Portland

2 Tbsp butter
1 cup chopped onion (about one medium to large onion)
1/2 cup chopped leek (about 2 stalks)
2 tsp minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
2 lbs cleaned, roughly sliced wild  mushrooms
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp paprika
3 Tbsp fresh dill weed, chopped
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
3 Tbsp flour
2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup milk
Black pepper, freshly ground
1/2 cup sour cream
Parsley, roughly chopped for garnish

In a large stockpot, melt butter over medium heat.

Add onion, leek and garlic.

Sauté for 5 minutes or until onions are translucent but not browned.

Add mushrooms, salt, paprika and 2 tablespoons of the dill. Stir well. Bring to a slow simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes.

Remove the lid, stir and simmer uncovered for an additional 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in lemon juice.

Sprinkle flour evenly over mixture. Simmer while stirring continuously for another 5 minutes.

Add stock,cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring often.

Add milk and black pepper to taste and turn the heat to low.

Whisk in sour cream, a little at a time. Be careful not to boil the soup from this point on.

Add salt to taste.

Not entirely recommended

I foolishly stuck my immersion blended in the pot without taking some of the soup out to preserve a chunky mushroom texture.  I would recommend setting half aside, blending it all up until thick and creamy, then dumping the unblended half back in.  This is all, of course, very optional and questionably superficial.  For some, texture is a pretty big deal, as illustrated by the band Catherine Wheel in the opening track of their 1992 debut full-length Ferment (and consequently the beginning of the end of shoegaze?  Blending -- only for the brave). 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Brunch: serving the server

When my good buddy (and only person I refer to as "buddy") Shannon, a server at a popular brunch spot, was off on a Saturday she suggested we go out somewhere so that someone could server her some brunch.  I, not one for waiting in line, or paying more than I know I should for food retorted, "Let me serve you."  Done deal.

She showed up afflicted with a full-blown Enter the Void-induced hangover from the night before.  I haven't confirmed with her, but I think the meal proved an effective cure.  I plan to take the plunge while it's still in theaters, but not without another brunch menu planned for myself.

Having never made crepes, I felt this an opportune occasion to try the Mushroom Crepe Cake over at Smitten Kitchen since I couldn't justify all the work without sharing the results with company.  Tasty indeed, though the slices were like limp triangular mounds.  I could have reduced the liquid in the mushroom filling a bit more, laid off the mozzarella topping, and perhaps took more caution layering it together.  But I figured the eaters involved could give a shit.  I'm pretty sure I was right.

MAKING CREPES IS FUN.  Which is why I didn't mind spending the end of my Friday nite cooking them up after watching the Giants lose (it's okay, they have since beat the Braves afterall) with some whiskey and a burger.  Or maybe it's the other way around...Either way I prepared the batter Thursday nite (after coming home from watching the Giants win with some beer) so it could hang out for a day to achieve righteous texture.
At the end of the middle of the day, it was all about the ole standby biscuits and gravy.  I have had bad biscuits and gravy.  To me, that annoying saying about pizza and sex applies to biscuits and gravy (and ice cream and fried chicken).  You know the one.  For me, when something that is supposed to be good even when it is bad is actually just bad when it's bad, it makes it even more...bad.  Especially when you're well aware that the tasteless slop you're consuming is made up of fat and carbs and totally not worth the cal's.  Travesty.  Thankfully I have also had good biscuits and gravy, and this foolproof recipe in my arse-anal. 

I've made these biscuits too many times to count (ok, something like seven times), and they never fail.  NEVER.  The best part is that, while you can get all fancy with biscuits with buttermilk, sour cream, and heavy cream if you want, this recipe calls for ingredients I usually keep stocked in my fridge.

Like butter.

from Food.com
makes 12 biscuits
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter, cold
3/4 cup milk, cold

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F Mix first 4 ingredients together in a bowl.

Cut in butter with a pastry blender or a fork, or two knives, until crumbly.

Add milk.

Stir until it forms a ball.

Add a bit more milk if necessary to make a soft dough.

Roll or pat to 1 inch thick.  Cut into circles with a biscuit cutter or a floured glass (I usually do this but this last time I treated them as drop-biscuits and formed mounds on the baking sheet just to mix it up).

Arrange on a greased baking sheet and bake at 425 degrees F for about 15 minutes, depending on your oven.

The original recipe suggests variations that include cheese and herbs.  I added about a tablespoon of finely chopped scallions I had on hand and had great results.  Plus, the green flecks add to an otherwise colorless dish.

Vegetarian Gravy
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 an onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
3/4 cup milk, to start (I used whole)
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional, but I've found it gives it a more robust flavor)
1 vegetable bouillon cube
Water, optional
Herbs of your choice, optional
Salt and pepper, to taste

Melt butter in a saucepan.

Add onions and cook on medium heat until soft, about five minutes.

Stir in flour so that it evenly coats the onions.

Add the milk and stir until smooth.

Once milk is heated, add bouillon cube and nutritional yeast, if using, and stir until completely incorporated.

Reduce heat to low and cook until thickened, stirring frequently and scraping the edges (a rubber spatula does this beautifully).

If mixture is too thick, stir in more milk or some water depending on how creamy you prefer the gravy to be.

Add herbs, if using.  I wasn't looking to go very herby here (though you could!), so I did 1/2 teaspoon of thyme and 1/2 teaspoon of rosemary.

Salt and pepper to taste, though I found the bouillon has the salt department covered pretty well.

Serve hot, spooned over biscuits and eat it all.  That's part of the directions.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Muffins for Giants

After going to a couple of games, I started mildly caring about baseball this year. Then The Giants started to actually win and started caring a little more.

At the ballpark, I did what any somewhat self-respecting spectator would do: ODed on chicken tenders, garlic fries, regular fries, Ghiradelli hot fudge sundaes, and even a hot dog. Not to mention the BBQ, chips, and beer consumed among my fellow cable-less citizens at local bars while watching the game.

The Giants won the west (whatever that means) and now it's time to make some (admittedly most likely very temporary) post-season changes. We're talking major cut-backs on refined flour, sugar, dairy, fried foods, and all that is good in the world but bad for you. I turned to these muffins from Chocolate & Tea to get me through it all.

These are amazingly not whole wheat tasting and, minus the small amount of sugar, actually good for you. I got my roommate stoked on them and then dropped the WWNF-bomb (whole-wheat non-fat) on her. Plus, the basic batter is so versatile, I included a Carrot-Walnut version. Feel free to experiment with spices and different fold-ins!

The use of whole wheat PASTRY flour, which contains less protein than regular old whole wheat flour is what makes these fiberlicious things beyond edible. Most major grocery stores carry it, and your local health food store should definitely have it. I got mine in bulk from Rainbow Grocery for $0.79/lb.

Fluffy Whole Wheat Anykine Muffins
slightly adapted from Chocolate & Tea
makes 12 muffins

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk (I used almond milk in one batch and low-fat plain yogurt in another)
1/4 cup applesauce
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt, and spices if using them.

In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Whisk in the liquid ingredients: milk, applesauce, honey, and vanilla.

Next, pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir until completely incorporated.

Fold in any mix-ins (berries, nuts, chocolate chips, carrots, etc).

Divide batter into 12 greased muffin tins, lined or unlined -- your call!

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes*, or until tops turn golden brown and you can pull a clean toothpick out of the center. Let muffins cool before removing from pan. Keep in mind baking times are loose since ovens vary greatly -- I had to bake mine for about an extra 10 minutes.

For Blueberry Muffins, fold 1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen) into batter just before baking.

Carrot-Walnut Muffins:
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1 cup grated carrot
1/2 cup walnuts, preferably toasted

Mix spices with dry ingredients. Prepare batter as directed and fold in carrot and walnuts before baking.

Note that these are not sweet like your usual store-bought muffin (which, c'mon, is really just a euphemism for a cupcake without frosting).

Let's go Giants!