Monday, February 16, 2009

on forbidden fruit: sauteed mushrooms and scallops


The boy is in Daytona Beach this weekend doing Very Important NASCAR Things. When I go out of town, the boy makes himself a big huge steak. I’m not really quite sure why, because it’s not like I don’t mind a good steak myself, but he’s got this tradition of eating steak when I’m not around. And the same goes for me as well; when he’s not around, I eat the things he normally doesn’t care for. The one thing the boy cannot stand more than any other foodstuff are mushrooms. Being a trained professional, he obviously has worked with them countless times; he knows how they’re supposed to look, feel, and taste. He’s made them for me before, and they’ve always turned out lovely. But it all comes down to a texture and odor thing for him. He is just not into them the way I’m into them, and that’s fine. I never cook with mushrooms when he’s around so as to not offend his senses; so when I do, it’s very special to me.

Having said that, I sometimes wonder if mushrooms are special to me because they are like the forbidden fruit. Way back in my youth, I used to date someone who was allergic to coconut. I craved Thai green curry the entire length of our year-long relationship. i do like the occasional curry, but I never crave it like I did back then. I’ll attribute this to the fact that I just couldn’t have any when we ate together; and I started to fear that his head would blow up like a melon and I’d have to cart him off to the hospital if he came anywhere near a coconut. Not a nice visual. So I sat around and moaned about my great love for Thai green curry to no one in particular, when in fact it’s not a great love of mine at all; it’s merely a like that was unattainable at the time.

I made this recipe a while back for J (who is also a huge mushroom lover) and I could have sworn on my grandmother’s grave that it was a Gordon Ramsay recipe. At that time, we had been watching a lot of Hell’s Kitchen and I’d read his autobiography, so I must have had GR on the brain. Today when I went to look for the recipe, I was surprised that I couldn’t find it in either of the two cookbooks we have by him. At that point I became a little discouraged because I have a shit ton of cookbooks and didn’t feel like sorting through them to find said elusive recipe. But then, when glancing at the topmost shelf, my eyes rested on Tom Colicchio’s book “Think Like A Chef”, and I knew it had to be in there. And there it was, pages sticking together from the butter i'd used the last time.

I adapted the recipe for 2 servings, since I’ll be eating one of the helpings for tomorrow’s lunch. Also, make and eat as many scallops as you want. I usually can do only two per serving; any more seems like too much of a good thing to me. I had today’s portion with a glass of wine for a late lunch/early dinner around 5 pm, after a grueling workout and a much needed bubble bath.


“pan roasted” mushrooms and scallops – adapted from Think Like a Chef by Tom Colicchio

Serves 2.

For the mushrooms:

Olive oil, for cooking
1 lb mixed mushrooms (I used shitake, maitake, portabella, and regular white button), cleaned, trimmed and thickly sliced
Salt and pepper
1 big shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
A couple of knobs of butter
1 tablespoon thyme leaves, minced
1 tablespoon tarragon leaves, minced


Heat a tablespoon or so of the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Cook the mushroom in batches; you want them to cook beautifully; if you crowd the pan, they will steam and not be as good. Add enough mushrooms to coat the pan. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes without touching them – this is key. You want to get good color on them, and good texture; and the only way to do this is to leave them be.

After 2 minutes, gently turn them once they begin to brown and soften . add some of the shallot, garlic, herbs, and a knob of butter, and cook until they turn brown. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate, and repeat the process with the rest of the mushrooms. You can wipe out the pan in between cooking the batches so that leftover shards of garlic and shallot don’t burn.


For the scallops:

4 sea scallops (I’m thinking 2 per person, depending on their size and your appetite)
salt and pepper
Canola or peanut oil
Couple of knobs of butter
1 recipe pan roasted mushrooms
More chopped thyme and tarragon, if you’d like.


Dry the scallops with paper towels, then season on both sides with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in the same large skillet over medium-high heat; add the scallops and cook until they are beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Absolutely do not touch them or move them around during this time. You can walk away, but come back in 2 minutes to check on them.

Turn the scallops, add a knob of butter and the reserved mushrooms. Toss in a little more chopped tarragon and thyme if you’d like at this point. Baste the scallops with the butter until they become opaque, begin to firm up, and get golden on the other side; this should take another minute or two. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove from skillet and plate it all.


photos were taken with my cell phone since the camera is in Daytona along with the boy.

3 comments:

MODman said...

What is it about the beloved mushroom. Is it the earthy scent? Is it the meaty taste? What is it? Little morsels sent from heaven.

foodvox said...

That Colicchio cookbook is a good one - it sort of goes deep rather than expand into a thousand endless recipes. A thinking cookbook. :)

I once read a short story (in Alimentum, though I don't remember the author's name) about mushrooms, men, and friendship. Well yes I know - sounds a bit weird. But really it wasn't.

It was a tale of a friendship found between two sworn enemies - the narrator-woman's husband and her brother.

They went out wild mushroom hunting together one day (unwillingly) and brought the mushrooms back to her to cook.

She cooked and cooked all the various sorts of mushrooms throughout a bitterly cold evening as the men got drunk and sat at the table eating all these fabulous wild mushroom dishes, each one different than the one before.

And at the end of it all they were friends, these two men who had previously hated each other. Bound by the taste of mushroom.

One of those ingredients with a bit of mythic power, the mushroom. :)

french tart said...

karen, what a great story!