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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mushroom Conserva

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.

They're preserved.

I can't wait to use them.

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