Pulled mushrooms with herb salsa

Reading through the entire Modernist Cuisine seems like a never-ending task. It doesn’t help either that I have a serious attention deficit when facing such a tome. So far I have nearly finished the first book and several parts of books 2 to 5. And so when I was browsing the mushroom isle in my local supermarket and saw these wonderful king trumpet mushrooms, page 3:396 suddenly sprang to mind: pulled mushrooms with BBQ sauce. The idea is that you cook the mushrooms, and then pull them apart to create a faux-spaghetti.

I wasn’t so keen on the BBQ sauce, so I tried to make a herb salsa. Tried. The whole thing was just one gigantic failure after another. I took the salsa recipe from Roux’s Sauces book. I left out the whole-grain mustard because I didn’t have any, so I tried to make my own with mustard seeds, and get this, sherry. Not sherry vinegar, like the recipe asked for, no, sherry itself. Epic failure number one, as the sherry taste was enormously overpowering. I was in a stubborn mood however, so I decided to go on, figuring it would somehow balance itself out in the end. Yeah, right. I forgot the other stupid ideas I put into the salsa, but the whole thing ended up tasting like sherry and potato. So it was a sherry-potato salsa with herbs in it just for show. Needless to say, I’m not giving any recipe for the salsa.

The mushrooms, then? They were awesome!

Pulled Mushrooms

Vacuum pack halved king trumpet mushrooms with olive or other oil and cook for 4 hours at 90°C. Afterwards, take out the mushrooms, pat dry with kitchen paper, and pull apart in strands. Serve with something better than my salsa.

Pea soup with champagne and shrimp

Pea soup served with sautéed shrimp and a healthy dose of champagne (yes, in the soup) was an upscale dish served at some of my parents’ dinner parties when I was in my teens. For the last couple of months I have been trying to reinvent this dish into a cool new ‘upgraded’ version. I was thinking gels, different textures with bacon, etc etc…Somewhere in the back of my head though there was this nagging voice warning me of taking it too far.

Looking back at all my favourite dishes over the past year that I have either eaten somewhere or made myself, I have to admit they are usually not too complicated but instead manage to perfectly balance a couple of contrasting flavours. So this weekend I decided to skip all the frivolities, gels and bacon and get down to the core of the dish.

First, there is the pea soup. I switched the recipe’s chicken stock for a fish stock, and next time I’ll make one out of the shells of the shrimp. I was only going to try this on four shrimp so I had to improvise with one of those stock cubes. I can already feel the judgement laid down upon me! In my defense, we’re living sort of compactly and therefore I don’t stock a bucket of fish heads in my freezer. (And besides, storing a bucket of heads in the freezer seems a tad macabre.) I also added half of a scraped out vanilla bean I have lying around (so just the bean, not the seeds), to add a delicate layer of sweetness.

Secondly, there’s the shrimp. At home these would be quickly boiled and grilled. I wanted a perfectly cooked shrimp for this soup, so the obvious choice was chucking them into the sous-vide unit. It did not disappoint.

Lastly, there’s the champagne. In the original, it would just be added to the soup at the last minute. Doing this will destroy all those nice bubbles, which led me to blending the champagne with a little bit of soy lecithin. That way those bubbles get stabilized and you end up with a nice and light champagne foam.

The verdict? I really think Pea Soup with Champagne and Shrimp v2.0 was a great success!

Pea Soup with Champagne and Shrimp v2.0

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 500ml fish stock
  • 175gr peas (frozen)
  • 1/2 vanilla bean without seeds
  • Champagne
  • Soy lecithin
  • Shrimp

Sweat the onion in a little butter until golden. Add the fish stock, and let simmer for 5 minutes. Add the peas and the vanilla bean, and let simmer for 10 minutes more. Blend everything and pass through a fine sieve.

Meanwhile, cook the shrimp sous-vide for 7 minutes at 60°C.

Blend the champagne with a little bit of lecithin. (I did this on the go without any set amounts, you can always browse the internet if you want specifics.)

Assemble by filling a small plate with the soup, adding a shrimp and topping off with the champagne foam. Enjoy with the leftover champagne!

Spaghetti con granchio e pomodoro

I’m starting to realize that I have some funny conceptions when cooking for a party. Most people I know would go to the store an hour before the happening and stock up on potato chips, dips, olives or whatever they feel like. I, on the other hand, obsess for a week about what I’m going to prepare. I also make my own bread and marinate my own olives. I don’t even think about it anymore.

On top of that, I have very bad assessment skills when it comes to optimizing quantities. No, let me rephrase that: I have abysmal assessment skills. I blame my Greek background. There should never be insufficient quantities of food available at a party! This inevitably leads to overeating and that well-known stuffed feeling. Ever since I went on a self-invented diet in order to slim down a bit, I’m hitting that feeling a lot sooner than I used to. That’s a good sign health-wise, but it does provide this gnawing feeling that I’m less of a man than I used to be. I quickly compensated that by buying a nice, big dSLR camera with a big lens. I’m the alpha male of the block again!

But seriously, after such parties, of which there have been too many lately, I crave for lighter meals that don’t require umpteen intermediate steps to prepare. Enter light pastas and simple curries. Our usual quick and dirty pasta fix consists of thickening a couple of tins of tomatoes with spicy garlic oil, yet sometimes we crave for something a bit more complex. I was delighted to find this recipe for a crab and tomato pasta, which I altered ever so slightly to our taste.

I’m not sure if the original recipe required fresh crab, but since fresh is unavailable here I used canned crab. It might be heresy, but so be it; it was still delicious. This would be perfect for one of those holidays in a beach cottage, where fresh seafood is abundant. One of those fun trips I seem to be dreaming of a lot these days. Where everyone is happily cooking and eating outside on the patio.

Spaghetti con granchio e pomodoro

Recipe almost entirely taken from the Simple Kitchen Seasons blog.

  • 1 clove garlic, sliced thinly
  • Crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • A can of chopped San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 cup fish stock
  • A can of 210gr king crab meat (or fresh crab if you’re lucky enough)
  • Some parsley and mint, chopped together
  • (Fresh) spaghetti

Heat the olive oil with the garlic over medium heat, until it turns golden. Add the red pepper flakes and give the pan a couple of swirls to mix. Continue by adding both the stock and the tomatoes, and let simmer for fifteen minutes until the sauce thickens. In the meantime, cook your spaghetti according to instructions. I added the liquid from the crab to the cooking water. When the sauce is thickened and your spaghetti is al dente (which you will have timed perfectly), add the pasta and crab meat to the sauce, together with a splash of the pasta cooking water (this will also partly salt the sauce). Add some more salt if needed, plate, and sprinkle with the chopped parsley and mint (to taste).