Last night Carrie had excellent Friday night plans. We were going to a 5-à-7 and then to catch dinner and movie downtown. Well, the weather pretty much killed that ideas and the 5-à-7 was cancelled, so we decided we’d cook something nice and stay in and watch stuff on TV. All evening we could hear the sound of freezing rain (or whatever it was) pelting the back windows of our place.
Feeling a bit adventurous, we decided to try a new vegetarian stroganoff adaptation, which I’ve always found to be an exceptionally fussy sauce to cook but a delicious sauce to eat when done right. Of course I discovered it in my meat eating days and have been on a quest as a vegetarian to find a good alternative. Like most vegetarians, my first stop was the Moosewood which yielded a not-entirely-satisfactory alternative, which also had a mountain of sour cream in it. Lately, I’ve been taking sauce ideas from meat cookbooks and adapting them and having better luck, so this was the plan for last night. It also turns out it’s a lot easier on a gas stove (which we’re happy to be back to after a 3-year sojourn in the electric wilderness), as the precise control of the heat means that there’s less chance of curdling the sour cream.
This recipe depends on a particular economic relationship to dried porcini mushrooms — “buy more/save more.” Those tiny 1/4 oz. bags in the supermarket will set you back quite a bit and you get tiny broken bits and not much at that. We head over to Milano’s, an Italian grocer, and buy what I call the “Sam’s Club size” bag for $40. For $35 we can get pieces and stems but for $40 we get actual whole mushrooms and slices thereof. Sure, that sounds like an insane amount of money to spend on an ingredient, but it means you can use them by the handful and given that you get over 10 meals per bag (maybe 20 if you’re more conversative than me), it’s waaayyy cheaper over time. Just store them in an airtight jar in the dark to keep them fresh. We use them is all sorts of pasta sauces and people generally love them (unless they hate mushrooms, in which case don’t try to pull a fast one). Porcinis work well to take the place of the intense beef flavor that makes the meaty version of the dish so good. Anyway, everything else we needed was in our place or at the corner store.
Snowed-In Porcini Stroganoff (adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook)
A handful of porcini mushrooms soaked in 1.5 cups hot water (don’t go too light on these)
olive oil for stir frying
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots for stir frying
12oz mushrooms (we used half cremini and half regular button), sliced
3T sour cream
1t Dijon mustard
1t dried dill (2T fresh would be better but there was no fresh dill at the corner store)
egg noodles are ideal, but since the corner store only had regular pasta that’s what we went with
Once the porcinis have softened, strain the liquid through a sieve lined with a paper towel, reserving the liquid. You should have about 1 cup, maybe a little more. Wash the porcinis and make sure there’s no dirt. Set aside. Melt the butter in a saucepan and whisk in the flour to make a roux. When it’s a little toasty, whisk in the porcini liquid, bring to a boil, and then simmer for a couple minutes until it’s nicely thickened. Cover and let it sit. Boil the water for the pasta or noodles and time the noodles so they will finish around the time that the mushrooms will be done. Heat the oil in a skillet and cook the shallots until almost done. Add the fresh mushrooms and porcinis and cook until they’re seared and the liquid has cooked off. As the mushrooms near completion, put the porcini sauce back on the heat and whisk in the sour cream, Dijon and dill. Add salt and pepper to taste for both the sauce and the mushrooms, combine in the skillet and then serve over the cooked noodles.
We ate it with roasted fennel and red onions on the side.
[Edited to clarify a couple things]