Sunday, November 14, 2010

CI:Mushroom Sauce with Ham and Tomato

Oh so close and yet so far. On my way to cooking one of the November recipes for my blogging friends over at Cooking Italy, I got waylaid by this delectable recipe right before it. At least my heart was in the right culinary direction.

Now despite the fact that I love mushrooms in most dishes, I was a little worried about the amount of mushrooms called for in the recipe and the secondary nature of the tomatoes in this dish. But to be fair to Marcella, my experience throughout my childhood with Italian cooking was entirely limited to the American Italian restaurants my family went to where there was not much variations with sauces or noodles or flavorings. Pizzas, raviolis and spaghettis with basic tomato sauces ruled and mushrooms, ham and tomato sauces were nowhere to be found back then.

Oh, the deprived culinary life I lived then. This sauce was great. 

Even better, for once, I actually followed the directions exactly, despite some misgivings about how the amount of mushroom water was supposed to evaporate during cooking (it did) and trying to figure out exactly what Marcella meant by a "lively heat". And I'm glad I did because this dish was, for me, a great flavor eye opener. It's one of those dishes where the attention to detail goes a long way. And it's a hearty dish perfect for a November evening.

Due to a few factors such as reconstituting the mushrooms and then cooking the mushroom water down, the cooking time was a little longer than I had expected but still from start to finish, I would estimate it was maybe a little longer than an hour.

Definitely would make this again. Now I need to go find the eggplant at the store to try the other recipe that looks just as intriguingly tasty.

from "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" by Marcella Hazan

3/4 cup fresh white mushrooms
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly mashed
1/3 cup boiled unsmoked ham cut into julienned strips of 1/8 inch wide or less
1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
Filtered water from mushroom soak
2 tbsp chopped parsley
Black pepper freshly ground
1 cup canned italian plum tomatos chopped fine with juice
1 pound fusilli pasta

Soak porcini mushrooms for 30 minutes. Drain mushrooms through strainer and set liquid aside.

Wash white mushrooms under cool water. Slice and set aside.

Place oil and mashed garlic clove into sautee pan. Turn heat to medium high. Cook until garlic is colored a light nut brown and remove it immediately.

Add ham strips (be care as the oil will splatter up at this point) and stir for a few seconds. Add porcini mushrooms and filtered water. Marcella recommends cooking at a lively heat which on my stove translated to medium high heat. Continue cooking until all mushroom liquid has evaporated - towards the end, stir mushrooms lightly to prevent them from sticking to the pan.

Add fresh mushroom, parsley, salt, and several pepper grindings. Stir for 30 seconds before adding tomatoes and juices, stirring until all ingredients are coated. Turn heat down until sauce bubbles steadily - for my stove this was a high low/low medium temperature. Cook for 25 minutes or until oil begins to separate from sauce.

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