Shrimp, Mushrooms, Pasta, & a Good Book

July 23, 2018 – A good book makes an evening alone pleasant.  Add shrimp, mushrooms, and pasta with, oh, a few other things, and it becomes memorable.

I cook quite often with shrimp and mushrooms.  They’re two of my favorite ingredients.  Very often they’re bathed, together or separately, in a cream sauce.  I had something similar in mind on this night but wanted to take it in a slightly different direction.  A cream sauce but no cream.  And perhaps an often overlooked addition that would add a little pep.

I used moderately large shrimp.  Fifteen to twenty to a pound.  But either larger or smaller would work as well.

The different direction called for substituting sour cream for the usual heavy cream.  Thicker.  A slightly different taste.  Not a radical departure from the usual.  Just a variation on the norm.

And the “often overlooked addition?”  Horseradish.  I thought about horseradish when talking recently to my friend, Rich Listowski.  Rich, in years past, was famous for the Polish Easter dinners he hosted.  Rich lives in Juneau, Alaska’s beautiful, small town capital with a small town’s paucity of grocers.  To collect the supplies needed for his Easter gathering, Rich would fly to Anchorage, Alaska’s largest community with its greater variety of grocery vendors.  He came in search of horseradish.

I would drive him around to one grocery after another as he bought up all the horseradish root he could find.  When he had enough to resemble a fair sized bundle of firewood, he would fly back to Juneau to begin the peeling and grating.  Not work for those of languid character.

This is another easily assembled, quickly prepared recipe.  It has a flavor I found to be very good.  The horseradish gave it that esoteric touch that I like.  It’s that thing that makes the diner think, “That’s really good but I just can’t quite place what it is.”  Yeah.  I like to hear that.

One other thing.  For another of those hard to place tastes, I added two tablespoons of a good quality vanilla to the pasta water.  The result was a barely discernible sweet nicely offsetting the slight bitter of the horseradish.

Here’s the result of me tinkering around in the kitchen, preparing something quick and easy to enjoy with a good book.  And the book, I’m sure you’ll agree, is a really good one!

Shrimp &  Mushrooms in a Sour Cream Sauce

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

8 ounces mushrooms, sliced

1 pound shrimp, shelled

1/2 cup white wine

1 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon horseradish

Salt & pepper to taste

Melt the butter and warm the olive oil in a heavy skillet over moderate heat.

Saute’ the mushrooms, cooking them down until they begin to brown.

Add the shrimp and continue to cook until the shrimp turns pink.  It shouldn’t take more than three to five minutes.  Don’t overcook the shrimp.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Deglaze the pan with the white wine, scraping up all the bits from the mushrooms and shrimp that have stuck to the skillet.

Stir in the sour cream and horseradish.  Mix well.  Continue to stir as the sour cream liquifies.

Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

Shrimp, mushrooms, pasta, treats for Molly, and a really good book!

Serve over your choice of pasta.

Bon temps!

 

 

 

 

 

Stuffed Cabbage

July 13, 2018 – “Ah, kapucha,” my friend Rich Listowski exclaimed enthusiastically when I told him I was making stuffed cabbage for dinner.  Cabbage.  A vegetable dear to generations of his Polish ancestors.

As our conversation continued, I learned that stuffed cabbage is gotabki, pronounced “gaw-WOHMP-kee.”  Translated literally, it means “little pigeons.”  Looking at the small bundles of deliciousness awaiting their baptismal dunking, it’s easy to see how they came to be so named.  It was as pretty a sight as I’ve ever seen on a stove.

The food of Poland is as fascinating as is the nation itself.  In centuries past, Poland was a major power, with several cultures falling under its dominance.  Its food from those years developed with Latvian, Turkish, and Hungarian influences among others.

Later centuries brought invasion from other powerful nations.  The Poles were no pushovers.  Their cavalry was the finest in the world, respected and feared by their enemies.  The elite were the Winged Hussars, who rode into battle with a pair of wings on their backs.  There is debate as to the purpose of the wings.  I’ve always liked the version that the wings made a weird, supernatural noise that could be heard before the cavalry came into sight, striking panic in many of the opposing forces.

Military history aside, the point is that Polish food developed from a variety of cultures.  The Poles, however, made each new element their own, preparing and presenting it in their uniquely wonderful fashion.

After emerging into the light of freedom after decades of dark domination, first by Nazis and then communists, Poland has earned the world’s respect and again become prominent in the community of nations. I decided it was time to try my hand at Polish food.  Summoning my culinary courage, I launched into the delicate construction of gotabki.

I used only ten leaves from a head of cabbage because that’s what I needed for the amount of ground meat I had.  The leaves should be large and handled gently so as not to tear.

I also added a couple of spices that probably wouldn’t be included in a true Polish version.  Sometimes I just can’t help myself.

With apologies to my pal, Rich Listowski, and his Polish ancestors, here’s my take on gotabki.

Gotabki

“Little Pigeons”

1 tablespoon freshly grated nutmeg

10 large cabbage leaves

1 pound ground beef

1 cup cooked rice

Little Pigeons

1 onion, minced

2 eggs

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon allspice

salt & pepper to taste

olive oil

1 onion, quartered

1 rib celery, sliced into medium chunks

1 1/2 cup stock

6 ounces tomato paste

Bring a pot of water, seasoned with nutmeg and salt to taste, to a boil.

Place the cabbage leaves in a large bowl and pour the boiling water over them.  Let them soak for about 15 minutes.

While the cabbage leaves are soaking, combine the ground beef, rice, minced onion, eggs, garlic, and allspice.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Mix well.

Remove the cabbage leaves from the water, handling very carefully so as not to tear them.

Lightly oil a heavy pan with a tightly fitting lid.

Layer the quartered onion and celery chunks in the pan to create a bed for the cabbage rolls.

Place a portion of the meat mixture into each leaf.  Carefully roll the leaf and tuck the ends under.  Lay the cabbage rolls on the vegetable bed.

Swirl the tomato paste into the stock and pour the liquid over the cabbage rolls.

Cover and simmer over low heat for one hour.

Bon temps!

Or more properly in this case, dobre czasy!

 

 

 

 

Mushroom Cream Sauce

July 6, 2018 – I love mushrooms.  Love’em.  I put them in all sorts of dishes.  And I use them as the star of many sauces, soups, pastas.  You name it.

I had some chicken thighs to be roasted.  And, wouldn’t you know it?  I also had some mushrooms.  And some heavy cream.  A  mushroom cream sauce is terrific with chicken.

I use chicken thighs because I prefer them to breasts.  But either, or a combination of both, will work just fine married to this sauce.

For spices, I decided to use what I call my “gumbo” spices.  Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.  Yeah, just like the Simon and Garfunkel song.  Easy to remember.

I don’t specify the kind of mushroom for this sauce.  Use your favorite.

This is quick and easy and delicious.

Mushroom Cream Sauce

2 tablespoons butter

1 – 2 tablespoon olive oil

Molly likes chicken & mushrooms, too!

3 tablespoons flour

1 shallot, minced

1/4 cup parsley, chopped

1 tablespoon sage

1 tablespoon rosemary

1tablespoon thyme

8 ounces mushrooms, sliced

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup heavy cream

Salt & pepper to taste

In a heavy skillet, melt the butter and warm the olive oil over moderate heat.

Add the flour and stir to make a blonde roux.  In other words, don’t let it darken.

When the oils and flour are combined, toss in the shallot, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.  Continue stirring to thoroughly coat all the ingredients.  If it becomes too dry, add another tablespoon of olive oil.

When the shallot and mushrooms are beginning to soften and spots of light browning begin to show, pour in the stock and cream.  Stir to combine as the liquids come to a boil.

Lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, as the sauce thickens.  You don’t want it too thin or too thick.  It will probably take about five to seven minutes on an easy simmer but you should keep an eye on it.

When it reaches the desired consistency, season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve with your choice of chicken pieces.

Bon temps!