Friday, March 03, 2006

Who's Shroomin' Who?

When I was in 10th grade, we lived next door to a family of gourmands. They knew how to eat, and they really liked to eat. I believe the Mrs. died early of a heart attack, and I doubt the Mr. is still alive at this point. I'm not saying food did them in, but they were not known for restraint. Liquor, cigarettes, butter.
I don't think I'd actually tasted real butter before I met the Gregorys. Their daughter Kathy baked up a batch of rolls one day after school, slathered something unctuous onto one, and popped it into my mouth.
Whoa. My brain twirled, trying to identify that unknown dairy sensation (we used margarine at my house). Cheese? Cream cheese? I was baffled, but I played it cool as my eyes scanned the counter top, finally alighting on the unfamiliar butter wrapper. Ah!
Butter played a role in another food sensation chez Gregory: One night for dinner, my family was treated to a first course of whole, sauteed mushrooms. Sauteed in butter, of course. My mom couldn't stifle her outburst: "These are cooked in butter!"
"Well," said Mr. Gregory, "naturellement."
And why not?
What was even more baffling for a 10th grader — me — was the idea of mushrooms as a "course." We'd only ever had mushrooms from a watery can, or in salty condensed "cream of" soup, or maybe in meatloaf or in a pot pie. Well, that's not entirely true. We'd had good Asian preparations of mushrooms when we lived in Hawaii, but that had been so long ago.
A confluence of food happenings leads to today's post. No, nothing to do with butter.
But everything to do with mushrooms as a whole course.
A few weeks ago, Jack and Joanne at Fork & Bottle gave me a taste of a very special Japanese soy sauce, Ohara Hisakichi Shouten, available only online from The Grateful Palate. Oh my. It's deep. Perfumey. Roses. Wine. Evil. Luscious.
So I ordered some, and it arrived the day before yesterday.
OK, then yesterday I bought a sack of mushrooms.
Completely without coaxing, I dreamed up the idea of marinating the mushrooms in a combination of soy sauce and sake. And just to make sure I was somewhere within reason, I googled "soy sauce sake pickles."
First thing that turned up was a recipe for mushrooms. So, clearly I was on to something.
Here's how easy it is: 1/2 cup dark soy sauce. 1/2 cup sake. 1/2 pound cleaned mushrooms. Simmer, until you like the flavor of the mushrooms. The recipe said "until the liquid is almost gone," but that would be too salty.
I drained off the liquid, and I'm going to use it to pickle some radishes and turnips.
The mushrooms?
All gone. Already.


cookiecrumb said...

Oh. And I'm SO not a smarty-pants about soy sauce. Please go learn more from Barbara .

Jennifer Maiser said...

I just audibly groaned when I got to the part about using the mushroom liquid to pickle other things. That sounds amazing.

My aunt lived with us most of my life and she was (is) a vegetarian. My mom would make my sister and I really great meals but she would make a separate course of mushrooms (sauteed, stuffed, whatever) and she would tell us, "don't eat those, they're for Pam." And thus started my obsession with mushrooms. With all the wonderful foods in front of me, I only had eyes for Pam's mushrooms.

Cyndi said...

Would you like a recipe for a fabulous mushroom pie? We have it as a main dish. It uses a double-crust pie shell, and has mushrooms, onions, and cheese as the main ingredients for the filling.

kudzu said...

Writing all day and eating weirdly -- now munching on an afterdeadline panino (yes, people, that is the singular) made with leftover ribeye, romaine and cucumbers. Would much rather have had ------------ mushrooms.

Your post today made me want to urge you to start thinking right now about next fall's Mendocino mushroom and wine festival. I can't be more enthusiastic about what you will learn and (hey, this is more important) taste, taste, tase.

You sound like the perfect candidate to experience the fantastic time on the coast.

b'gina said...

Ever since I though of cutting shrooms into wedges, rather than slices, I've been eating more of them and more often as a course. Those nice medium size Criminis cut beautifully into four wedges and, of course, taste great no matter how you cook, or don't, them. I'd never thought of doing an Asian-style prep, though. Great idea!

shuna fish lydon said...

Homemade soy sauce made me wonder if I had ever really tasted soy sauce. I liked that it wasn't just pure dark salty liquid, but that it was earthy and quiet and a little sweet.

Nice reminder... thanks.

ilva said...

Just wanted to say hello! And that i like your writing as usual.

Melissa CookingDiva said...

I enjoyed reading the story about your first encounter with butter! Butter is good and I am glad that the experience at that time was delicious.
Sometimes our first time trying something is not a good one, then we have that thought in our head every time we see of we think about the dish or the main igredient! Hugs,

Joanne said...

So glad that you still liked it ! (Sometimes you try something and love it and then have it again and don't...)

Jack is going to be ordering up those mushrooms :) YUM! What Sake did you use?

cookiecrumb said...

Yay! An audible groan outranks an LOL. :) I didn't know you had an obsession with mushrooms, Jen. Lucky Pam.
Cyndi: Wow, that sounds good. I just read your question out loud to Cranky and... he audibly groaned! We'd love to see it.
Thanks for the suggestion, Kudzu. What I'd really like to do is learn to identify my own in the wild, but I'm a little too timid for that. I'll look into the festival.
B'gina: How funny. Yeah, I guess they're more food-like when you leave them in chunks, and less "decor" or something.
Shuna: *Audible groan.* :)
Hello, Ilva. I've been visiting you too. Thanks.
Melissa: It was Cranky's suggestion for me to write about the butter. He's all smug right now.
Joanne: Nah, it was obvious from the first taste that this is a great shoyu. I hate to tell you the sake was just something in the fridge -- Takara Sierra, which we bought last August because it's local. The shoyu could definitely go toe-to-toe with something much nicer. In fact, I'd change the balance to less soy, more sake for the mushrooms.

plentyo'moxie said...

we've been watching Julia Child on dvd - and the way she says 'butter!' and the frequency - it's stuck in my head. Everytime I read the word, that's how I hear it in my head - like Julia would say it.

There are worse things in life . . .

Dagny said...

Mushroom and butter -- two of my favorite things in life. Well, right after cheese. Actually I think I should just say dairy and mushrooms. I too just might be tempted to try those mushrooms.