I have a thing for mushrooms. Big time. I adore them. It probably started with my mushroom hunting days with Frau Olga in Vienna, Austria when I was a young boy. They're as beautiful to look upon as they are to eat. I love their textures, colors, and flavors. That being said, Michael simply tolerates them. He'll eat them in dishes that require mushrooms, like Beef Stroganoff or puff pastry-encased Beef Wellington with duxelles.
I keep buying them for my solo dinner nights when I can eat whatever I want, which might explain the glut of mushrooms I had in the vegetable bin. What to do with the guttonous glut? Yesterday morning I was flipping through the gorgeous pages of Thomas Keller's gigantic Ad Hoc At Home cookbook and ran across a recipe for Mushroom Conserva. Apparently, it's a Basque method for preserving mushrooms in herb infused olive oil, reminiscent of a confit (if mushrooms had fat). Why preserve them? As a mushroom lover, preserving just seemed better than having them go black, limp, and slimy.
I adapted the recipe From Ad Hoc to accomodate the of amount mushrooms I had on hand as well as the ingredients available. With that in mind, it was a very straightforward method.
Keller's recipe suggested using shitake, morel, chanterelle, porcini, hen-of-the-woods, trumpet, and oyster mushrooms. I had shitake, cremini, enoki, white button, and white beech mushrooms. His recipe called for 2 pounds of mushrooms. I had one pound. I replaced piment d' epelette (fruity Spanish ground pepper) with 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper combined with 1/2 teaspoon Spanish paprika. Other than that, I halved the recipe and followed it to a tee.
It couldn't have been easier.
I cleaned the mushrooms with a damp cloth, removed woody stems, and sliced them into bite sized pieces. Using a deep-fry thermometer to gauge temperature, I brought 1 cup of olive oil to 170 degrees in a heavy stock pot before dropping in 2 fresh thyme sprigs, 1 fresh rosemary sprig, and 2 bay leaves. As the herbs absorbed the shimmering olive oil, I carefully lowered the mushrooms into the herb-infused oil bath to poach for exactly 5 minutes, turning them several times. After 5 minutes, I drizzled 1 1//2 tablespoons pomogranate-infused red wine vinegar (Keller used sherry vinegar) over the oil draped mushrooms before seasoning them with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. I slid the mushroom conserva from the heat and let it steep for 45 minutes.
Once cooled, I emptied the conserva onto a plate, tasted it, and sealed it in a glass mason jar. It will keep for a month in the refrigerator. Not bad for a neglected love languishing away in a forgotten vegetable bin.
Keller called the preserved mushrooms "earthy and acidic". Yep. They were soft and tangy with subtle rosemary/thyme undertones, slippery and shiny like herbed mushroom lip gloss.