As fall begins to kiss the air with its crispness in southern California, I find myself craving earthy rich flavors, soups, stews, and overall more sumptuous hearty food. Tonight for dinner we are having some marinated beef ribs to change things up from our typical steak dinner on Fridays. Fridays have become date night, a small tradition we’ve started to dangle a carrot in front of us throughout the workweek. The daily grind often feels so repetitive and unending that we need to see that light at the end of the tunnel. On date nights, we sometimes choose to eat out, but there is an unparalleled satisfaction that comes from preparing food with your own hands and watching other people consume and enjoy it. Michael Pollen spoke about this on his documentary entitled “Cooked.” He described the primal instinct to hunt, gather, and interact with food on a very intimate level. Anyway, as the prepared meals for the week have been almost completely devoured, I was prompted to cook a nice home-made meal for our first date night of the fall season.
When I think steak, the usual suspects include creamed corn, creamed spinach, and some kind of mashed or baked potato dish. As I’ve described previously, we are still in the midst of making lifestyle changes to our diet, so that essentially negates most of the usual side dishes that come with a proper steak dinner. Thinking outside the box using fresh healthy vegetable-based ingredients, I was struck by the earthiness of beef and thought that mushrooms would be a lovely pairing. When treated properly, mushrooms are the meat of the ground. They bind onto our umami receptors and create a delightful sensation that can only be described as “yum.” Paired with some butter, aromatics, and a splash of white wine and you have a delicious side-dish that bursts with flavor and deserves a spot on your dinner table in its own right!
Browning of mushrooms requires a good amount of oil, changing the heat and patience. If you have a lot of mushrooms that will crowd the pan, all you need to do is add some more oil, let the mushrooms cook down and release their juices, and then turn up the fire to let those liquids evaporate and leave behind their concentrated umami goodness.
Controlling heat and flames is such an important part of cooking. Mastering control of temperature and heat will help you to sauté to perfection every time. I was taught to cook Chinese food first and foremost. For stir-fries, you want your pan to be literally smoking hot before you place your oil and food to be cooked. For all other sautéing, I do not allow my pan to smoke. I place my hand above the surface of the pan to check for temperature. If I can sense the heat and it makes it uncomfortable for my hand to remain there for more than a second, I know that the pan is ready. Another check is that your cooking oil should become shimmery and start to disperse (becoming looser) if your pan is hot enough. This is when you can place your meats, veggies, and other foods for browning or sautéing. For veggies or meats that require longer cooking time due to thickness or the type of protein that needs to be cooked down, it is imperative to lower your flame to either medium or medium-low to prevent burning. At times, it may be necessary to add a liquid (e.g., water, broth, wine) to de-glaze your pan and prevent food from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning. This is also a great opportunity to imbue your food with delicious flavors.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
3 large king trumpet mushrooms
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, sliced
½ tsp salt, or to taste
1 tbsp black pepper
splash dry white wine
2 sprigs of scallion
optional: splash of truffle oil or pinch of truffle salt
Thinly slice mushrooms, shallots, and scallion.
Heat a skillet on high heat and add 1 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp olive oil. Once butter is melted and well incorporated with olive oil, add mushrooms. Sauté for 5 minutes on high heat and place a lid on the skillet. Cooked covered for 5 minutes.
Uncover lid and continue cooking until mushroom juices evaporate. When almost all liquid is gone, lower fire to medium and allow mushrooms to sauté until browned, stirring occasionally.
When most mushroom pieces have become golden brown, add shallots and scallion stems. Turn fire lower to medium-low. Sauté until shallots are translucent, stirring occasionally.
Add salt and pepper to taste. Then pour a splash of white wine into mushrooms. Turn fire to high to allow wine to evaporate, then back to medium once liquid has evaporated. Again, sauté to allow mushrooms to brown and caramelize. Add in scallion tips (the green tender parts) and the other tbsp of butter and sauté for another minute.
Taste for flavor and add additional pinches of salt, pepper, or even red pepper flake for additional flavor. If you are feeling fancy, go ahead and add some truffle salt. Sere and enjoy! If you are feeling even fancier, drizzle some truffle oil upon serving. Never heat up your truffle oil because that will destroy its delicate flavor.