A Blog Mainly About Food

If by "mainly" you mean "sometimes"

Friday, April 01, 2005

Fungus

You know those food preferences you had growing up? I wonder if there are two distinct types of people -- those who outgrow those preferences and those who are trapped in them. The latter group does try new things at times, but they have to be pressed hard. The former group react with surprise whenever they try something they didn't realize they liked. "That's what mushrooms taste like?"

I'm squarely in the former group, and the quote above is probably what went through my head the first time I ate mushrooms. Now I love that dirty fungus and its infinite variety. It's not a staple of my diet, but I enjoy falling back on them when I need to make a good meal quickly. Such was the case last night; going to the gym on an empty stomach was an awful idea, and when I just barely crawled into my kitchen the only main ingredients in play were a defrosted turkey leg and a massive portobello mushroom. I wasn't about to take the time to roast the turkey, so mushrooms it was. I scoured my fridge looking for other ingredients... bok choy, ginger, garlic, shallots, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil. Pulled out the Joy of Cooking, and found a good basic recipe I could play with. Perfect. I could make a meal.

1 large portobello mushroom, or 1 lb small shiitake or button mushrooms
2 medium sized heads bok choy
Ginger
3 cloves of garlic
1 shallot
Soy sauce
Oyster sauce

Clean the mushroom(s) well and place in a bowl; pour in 3/4 cup boiling water. Add a teaspoon of salt, if desired. This will make a mushroom stock, essential to the sauce. If you want a stronger mushroom flavor, use shiitake mushrooms; I used my portobello and added some salt.

While the mushroom is soaking, clean the bok choy and chop into 2-inch long segments. Set aside. Mince 1 tablespoon of ginger, the garlic, and the shallots. Set aside. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large wok over medium heat. While the oil is heating, mix 1/2 cup soy sauce, 2 tablespoons oyster sauce, and 1/2 cup of the mushroom stock in a mixing bowl.

Drop the ginger, garlic, and shallots in the wok and sautée until the garlic is slightly golden and the shallots are tender, about three minutes. While the spices sauté, prep the mushroom. Smaller ones will only need to be removed from the water, while you probably want to slice the portobello into smaller pieces. If using a portobello, the easiest way to slice it is to remove the stalk and slice it separately. It won't be as attractive, but it will be much easier.

When the spice mixture is cooked well, throw in the bok choy and the mushrooms. Combine well, and after a minute or so add your sauce. The sauce should, at this point, have a thinner consistency. Increase heat slightly and bring the mixture to a very low boil. Let the mix boil for about one minute and remove the mushrooms and bok choy with a slotted spoon. Reduce the heat and slowly -- very slowly, you don't want clumps -- add in some flour or corn starch, stirring constantly until the sauce reaches the desired consistency. Pour the completed sauce over the finished mushrooms and cabbage. If desired, serve over white/brown rice.

Though I really enjoyed this meal, I have to say it played havok with me last night when trying to sleep. I added some personal elements to my preparation -- hot sesame oil, red chili flakes, that kind of thing -- that made the dish significantly spicier. As a result I tossed and turned all night, and when I finally fell asleep I swear I had the most vivid dreams, some of them actually lucid. Strange.

In any case, try this recipe or your own variation of it. My favorite part was making the mushroom stock, which could serve as a great base for a soup... something to ponder, maybe with scallions and tofu?