Tag Archives: mushrooms

Braised Short Rib and Crimini Ragu with Pappardelle

Good things come to those who wait, and baby, these marbled short ribs in a meltingly rich ragu are worth it.  This recipe came about as an alternative to my dream lunch (yep, you read correctly when I said lunch) back when I was studying photography in Italy.  Our class lived in a sleepy town called Orvieto, nestled about 2 hours between Rome and Florence.  In the heart of Tuscany, Orvieto’s culinary acclaim was rooted in black truffles, a crisp white wine called Orvieto Classico, and wild boar.  The latter was an absolute mind-blower for me – in this country, pork has been raised to be so very lean, it’s been genetically altered into flavorlessness.  People then swoon over Berkshire pork anything because they are harkening this atavistic longing for a time when pork tasted flavorful and rich.  Not the dry, chewy garbage that we see all the time.


My first taste of wild boar was a forkful off my friend Michelle’s plate – she had a hankering for pappardelle, whilst I had never even heard of it until then.  The wide, eggy noodles, like halved lasagna sheets without the crinkles, weren’t as widely available in the states yet.  To me, at the time, they were a revelation, and when I eat them now (either made from scratch or picked up at Trader Joe’s), I look back to that first taste with fondness.  Topping the tangle of noodles was a luscious ragu of wild boar (called “cinghiale” in Italian) – savory, sweet and robust, this was like no pork that we had back home.  I was in love.

Braised Short Rib and Crimini Ragu with Pappardelle © Spice or Die

Although, as I mentioned before, pappardelle is an easy score, the wild boar is none to be found.  Though the ragu can easily me made with thick cut loin chops or even pork shoulder, I change the protein to beef and lovingly braise short ribs in stock, veggies and spices.  It takes time, but is really no work at all – one of those “set it and forget it moments”…sorry Ron Popeil.  This is better than anything made in your rotisserie grill.

Braised Short Rib and Crimini Ragu with Pappardelle

3 tbs. of olive oil
2 lbs of short ribs
1 tsp. of black pepper
2 tsp. of kosher salt
1 lb. of cremini mushrooms
2 bay leaves
1 stalk of celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 small onion, diced
1 c. of red wine
2 tbs. of thyme, chopped
28 oz. of tomatoes
4 c. of beef stock
6 c. of water
1 can of tomato paste
2 tbs. of butter
2 tbs. of flour

1 lbs. of dried pappardelle (or your favorite long pasta)
3 tbs. of butter
3 cl. of garlic, chopped
2 tbs. of fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 tsp. of crushed red pepper

In a large dutch oven, heat the oil.  Cut your short ribs into meaty, one-inch cubes and liberally salt and pepper.  Fry in batches in the dutch oven until very well browned on all sides.  Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the 1 tbs. of oil to the pan and add the mushrooms, making sure not to crowd the pan too much.  Stir infrequently, allowing mushrooms to brown and show lovely color.  Remove with the slotted spoon and add to the beef cubes.

Add your carrots, celery and onion to the dutch oven.  Cook until translucent and then add the garlic.  Continue cooking until fragrant – about a minute.  Pour in the cup of wine to deglaze the pan,  scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the dutch oven.  Add your tomatoes and stock to the pot and stir.

Simmer for 2 1/2 hours, adding water in 2 cup increments every 45 minutes.  When the short ribs are fall-apart tender and the sauce has reduced for the last time, use a slotted spoon to remove the meat from the pot.  In a separate sauce pot, melt your butter and then whisk in your flour.  Cook for a minute and then whisk in the tomato paste.  Pour all of the stew liquid into the pot with the tomato-butter-flour roux, whisking the entire time to prevent lumps.  Your sauce should be shimmering and creamy at this point.  Return the meat to the sauce, mashing it a bit to allow it to fall apart in the sauce.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and drop in your pappardelle.  Cook until al dente and then drain, making sure to reserve a cup of the cooking liquid.

While the pasta is cooking, in another small saucepan, melt the three tablespoons of butter.  Add the garlic, thyme and red pepper at the very last minute, allowing it to barely cook in the hot butter.

When the pasta is done, take out a skillet (lots of pans, I know) and turn it on high.  Plunk in 1 tablespoon of the butter-garlic mixture, the pappardelle and two ladlefuls of the sauce from the ragu.  Add the cooking water as necessary to loosen up the sauce until the pasta is glossy and the sauce adheres to the noodles.

To serve, place a tangle of pappardelle in a bowl and top with a few large spoonfuls of ragu, making sure to get good amounts of short ribs and crimini on the plate.  Drizzle a little of the garlic butter on the top and mangia bene!

Green and Gold Quiche (Quiche Florentine with Mushrooms)

I tend to hold on to recipes that have a “more the merrier” quality – this is certainly one of them.  If mushroom quiche is delicioso, and Quiche Florentine is equally lovely, what happens when you put the two together.  This recipe is based on one of my favorite omlettes, Elephant and Castle’s Green and Gold.  It combines gently cooked eggs with spinach and sharp white cheddar – I let my eggs cook delicately in the oven and add mushrooms for a little more veggie action.  It’s so delicious and so very easy, and you don’t have to stand over a pan to cook it.

All cheddars aren’t created equal, and in this recipe, you want as sharp as you can get it.  Sharp cheeses are good in that you can use less cheese to impart flavor, saving you calories in the process.  I use a good artisinal cheddar, but in a pinch, you could grab some Cracker Barrel Vermont Sharp White Cheddar and go from there. Continue reading Green and Gold Quiche (Quiche Florentine with Mushrooms)

Maitake Bread Pudding with Morel Velouté

Getting Into Trouble in the AM

When Elizabeth Crouch of Marx Foods asked if I’d be interested in their upcoming Morel Mushroom Competition, I nearly spit out my plate of spam and baked beans.  Kidding, you know I don’t eat mystery meat.  But I was surprised, honored and incredibly excited.  An opportunity to cook with 1 oz. of morels and a chance to win two pounds of fresh morels?  Bring it on!

Continue reading Maitake Bread Pudding with Morel Velouté

Morel Mushroom Bacon, Egg and Cheese

Rob From the Rich and Give Truffles to the Poor

I know what you are thinking.  Based on the fancy pants ingredients in this dish and the haute descriptions, this seems like something reserved for trust-fund babies and old money fat cats.  Not the case, plebian reader.  I like to think of this as superior breakfast for the adventurous palette.  Got a little time after a hard week and want to treat yourself to something lovely?  Snag the ingredients for truly THE best bacon, egg and cheese of all time.  I’m talkin’ eternity.

Morel Mushroom Bacon, Egg and Cheese © Spice or Die

This recipe is a lovely tower of creamy eggs, rich goat cheese bechamel, savory morel mushrooms, and prosciutto baked until crispy as bacon.  The whole mix is atop a toasted round of brioche (cut with a $1 ring mold – pick one up and start impressing folks with your presentation skills) and topped with seasonal violets and leaves of fresh thyme.  I usually tell people to make dishes for people that they love, but this is reserved for people in the upper echelons of your love contingency.  Like the top 5.

Truthfully, you can go into this very budget-mindedly without sacrificing on taste.  Brioche can be replaced with challah or another cheaper, eggy bread.  Goat’s milk cheese can be acquired for a reasonable price and at most grocery stores.  Same deal with the prosciutto.  There is no replacement for morels and truffle oil, but they are your only splurge and you won’t be using a lot of them.  If you want my opinion, although it won’t be nearly as luxe, you could get away with replacing the morels with a super fresh in-season mushroom and leave out the truffle oil.  Not the same dish, but still decadent as hell.  But really, get the truffle oil.  You use so little and if you’ve never had truffles before, you need to.  You really, really, really need to.  Like now.

This recipe was born from our attempts (and by our, I mean my friends Richard and Amy, whom I invited to help me cook and who brought the lovely violets that I think make the presentation) to create an award-winning entry into the Marx Foods Morel Mushroom Competition.  We were sent 1 oz. of morel mushrooms and asked to make something lovely.  Well, creative kids that we are, we ended up making two dishes, and this, my darlings, is the runner up.  Can you believe that we found something crazy enough to guild the proverbial lily? And it wasn’t truffled eggs?  Make this one first, and then if you want to up the decadence, read our entry in the competition.  By the way, I’d be remiss in not thanking Justin Marx for his inclusion of my humble site in the short list of competitors.  Talk about good people 🙂  Not to mention their products are ever-so-lovely – I spend hours just thinking how much damage I can do with their fabulous ingredients.  A cook’s dream.

But I digress, as it’s time for some decadence. This recipe is NOT hard to cook.  In fact, the hardest part is the grocery shopping.  It does, however, go in stages, with all of the components assembled at the last minute.  It’s forgiving, though, so take your time stirring and assembling, and maybe enlist those aforementioned people you love in putting the whole thing together. And then get them to wash the dishes.

Morel Bacon, Egg and Cheese (Truffled Eggs on Brioche with Morels, Goat Cheese and Prosciutto Chip)

1/4 oz. of dried morels
1 c. of chicken stock
2 tbs of butter

3 slices of brioche
2 tbs. of butter

2 prosciutto slices

2 tbs. of butter
2 tbs. of flour
2 c. of milk
1/3 c. of cream
1 c. of mild goats milk cheese, grated (we used Midnight Moon Goat from Whole Foods, but use whatever you like, to include 8 oz. of mild soft goat cheese)
pinch of black pepper
pinch of white pepper
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of cayenne
1 tsp. of salt

6 eggs
2 tbs. of truffle oil
3 tbs. of butter
1 tsp. of salt
1 tsp. of white pepper
2 tbs. of cream

violet blossoms
fresh thyme leaves

Round one – prep your morels.  Bring your stock to a boil and plunk in your morels.  Cover and let sit for 30 minutes or until mushrooms are puffy and lovely.  Strain, making sure any grit is poured out with the chicken broth.  Slice morels in half and sauté in a pan with 2 tbs. of butter on medium love until soft – about 3-4 minutes.  Set aside.

Round two – begin by prepping your brioche.  Cut out slices from a loaf, or if you want to be ultra fancy, cut out rounds using a 3″ ring mold.  Cookie cutters also work well.  Plunk 2 tbs. of butter into a skillet and melt on low heat.  Turn up the heat to medium low and toast the bread on each side until golden.  Set aside.

Round three – make your prosciutto chips (and you can skip this step, my vegetarian darlings).  Line a baking pan with foil and crank your oven to 450°.  Lay prosciutto flat on the baking pan, making sure that the pieces aren’t touching.  Place in the oven and bake until crispy and dark rose, about 10-12 minutes.  Check once or twice to make sure that it doesn’t burn – there’s not much fat on the prosciutto so they can cook quickly depending on the thickness of the slices.  Set aside.

Round four – make your bechamel (cream sauce).  Melt 2 tbs. of butter in the same pot you sautéed your morels in on medium low.  Whisk in the flour and stir until smooth and all incorporated – about 1 minute or so.  Slowly add your milk in dribs and drabs, whisking to prevent lumps.  Keep on whisking and crank the heat to medium to coax the sauce into thickening.  When it gets lovely and creamy, pour in the heavy cream.  Whisk and add the black pepper, white pepper, cayenne, nutmeg and salt.  Turn off the heat and whisk in the grated cheese.  If you are using goat cheese instead of a hard goat’s milk cheese that can be grated, just toss spoonfuls of it into the sauce and stir.  Taste for salt and pepper and correct seasoning.  Set aside.

Round five – egg action.  Scramble together 6 eggs, truffle oil, salt and white pepper.  Melt 3 tbs. of butter in a skillet on low and then slowly pour in your eggs.  Keep your heat LOW the whole time and gently stir your eggs as small curds form delicately.  This is a slow process, but not complicated.  Just keep stirring until the eggs are creamy and shiny and still a little wet.  Pour in the cream and turn off the heat.

Now, for the big finish – grab some plates and put a piece of brioche on each.  If you are going for fancy presentation, put the ring mold over the brioche and gently put 1/3 of the eggs right into the ring mold.  Otherwise, just portion the eggs right over the toasted brioche however you’d like.  Split the morels amongst the three plates of eggs.  Drizzle a couple of tablespoons of goat cheese bechamel over the works.  Sprinkle the thyme leaves and the violets over the entire plate.  Spear the top of the eggs with a shard of prosciutto.

Tuck into some majesty.

Whole Roast Chicken with Mushrooms and Herbes de Provence

A Roast You Can Boast About

I remember this stupid commercial – Perdue, I think – where this woman is freaking out about the prospect of roasting a chicken.  Jim Perdue came to the rescue (“My lucky stars!”) with a pre-seasoned chicken in a bag.  My real issue with the commercial was that it furthered the misconception that roasting a chicken is a daunting task.  Making a savory and deliciously moist chicken takes a few key steps, but the process itself is forgiving, adaptable and completely reasonable.   If you take the time to learn how to do it, roasting a whole chicken will quickly become a part of your recipe repertoire.

For me, all of the special techniques involve flavoring the meat and keeping it moist during cooking.  One of the easiest ways to inject flavor into a chicken is to brine it before roasting.  Think back to your days in Chemistry and lessons on osmosis – a porous object placed in a saltwater bath takes in the salt water and expells the unsalted water that is contained inside of it.  Same with the chicken – if you let it hang out in your fridge in some salty water, the seasoning will literally go all the way into the chicken.  Better than just salting the skin and ending up with tasteless chicken.  If you want to make the chicken without planning ahead, skip the brining and just make sure to follow the other two tricks below. Continue reading Whole Roast Chicken with Mushrooms and Herbes de Provence

Cha Gio (Vietnamese Crispy Spring Rolls)

Greatest Wrapper of All Time

Cha gio, the Vietnamese answer to the Chinese spring roll, are a heck of a lot more than a crispy wrapper around a bit of filling.  The complex mix of tender pork, delicate shrimp and crab, and savory vegetables and spices form an addictive amalgamation that trumps the few shreds of cabbage and roast pork in a traditional spring roll.  Combine this roll with the delicious crunch of herbs and lettuce, and finish the whole thing off with a dunk into some sweet and salty nuoc mam, and you are in for a treat.

I always order cha gio with all the fixings at Vietnamese restaurants, and feel that the presentation lends an air of luxury to the dish.  And yet, when I was young, our Vietnamese friends would make the rolls in large quantities and share with anyone deserving of a little treat – cha gio were unpretentious and meant to be shared.  I feel the same way about feijoada completa (the Brazilian national dish of black beans, rice, and assorted condiments) – in a restaurant, the many dishes of food that make up the meal add an element of grandeur to the meal, when in actuality, feijoada is the people’s food at its best.  Just good, honest cooking meant to be shared with friends and family. Continue reading Cha Gio (Vietnamese Crispy Spring Rolls)