We Have a Winner and a Runner-Up!
Response to our Recipe Contest was unbelievable! Well over 200 mushroom fanciers took part, and there were no ringers (“start with a can of Campbell’s ‘Cream of Mushroom’ soup and add…”) among them. Most were sophisticated recipes with ingredients and exotic spices to match, and they came from as far away as India. We prepared many of them, and were mightily impressed. Recipes ran the gamut, from desserts to appetizers to main courses; they used a wide variety of mushrooms, with only a few choosing the standard white grocery store agaricus. One of these, however, turned out to be a close runner-up to the eventual winner; while not often our choice, these ubiquitous super market mushrooms do have their legitimate place.
Something we did not expect, but which truly gratified us, was the very personal aspect of many of them. Most were accompanied by a notation, such as, “This is my husband’s favorite recipe,” or, “We fix this dish for gatherings at our place for football games.” In this way, we found ourselves connecting with our entrants as we read their notes. We try to make this a very personal website, and that connection with our readers is a “big deal” for us.
This was a very tough decision, and we agonized over it for days. Still, there can be only one winner, and for us, that winner had to be Becky Reams of Los Angeles. Her Papardelle with Balsamic Mushrooms recipe (which follows) included portabellos and morels, with an option to add scallops and was, exactly as she wrote, easier to prepare than it looked, hearty and with a rich depth of flavor like its been cooking all day, but it really comes together very quickly. A nice prize package of goodies from our part of the world will soon be on its way to LA, along with our congratulations and thanks for entering. The package includes, along with other items, Patrick Masterson's A History of Port Orford and Heck Timeus' Rogue River County as well as a bag of One Horse Coffee Company's House Blend, 'Tis Tasty's pickled vegetables and jam, ol' Hippie Gourmet BBQ Sauce, Siskiyou Mountain potpourri, and Gold Coast handmade soaps and Gardener's Healing Hand Lotion. Enjoy!
Only a razor thin-margin separated the winning recipe from the runner-up, which was submitted by Cheryl Perry of Hertford, North Carolina. Her recipe for Pan Seared Chanterelle Crusted Chicken Breast topped with Caramelized Shallots, Chanterelles and Pears was inventive, original, and absolutely delicious! We have not previously encountered a recipe that coupled (paired?) mushrooms and pears, but trust us, it works. Of special note, however, was Cheryl’s use of mushroom powder to coat the chicken. Hers is the only recipe that utilized this technique, and it is a wonderful way to give your dishes – even those that do not otherwise use mushrooms – a whole new flavor. It’s also an interesting and different way of using ‘shrooms that you’ve preserved by dehydrating.
We were introduced to the wonders of mushroom powder by our old friend, Chef Roland Henin, who oversees all food service at Yosemite National Park, among other things. He is the best and most knowledgeable chef we know, and a heck of a nice guy. Chef Henin also graciously donates his time and efforts each spring for Portland’s annual “Hilaire’s Wild Game Banquet,” a fund-raiser for charity which we’ve been a part of for over twenty years. Chef Henin uses powdered mushrooms in many preparations for meat, fowl and fish, with excellent results. It’s well worth trying yourself, as Cheryl obviously has found out!
We will be featuring Cheryl’s complete recipe in March's “Recipe of the Month” section. A copy of the justly famous Rogue River Cookbook is on its way to her with our compliments and appreciation. Although this great collection of Southern Oregon's finest recipes was first published a number of years ago by the Junior Service League, the recipes are timeless. They still delight and tantalize our tastebuds with favorites such as Northwest Berry Game Hens and Raspberry Hazelnut Muffins.
Sincere thanks and appreciation to all the many other talented people who entered our contest. The response was very gratifying. And while it’s fresh in your mind, it’s not too early to start working on your entry for next year’s contest, which promises to be even bigger and better! Bon appétit!
Papardelle with Balsamic Mushrooms
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 large shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large portabello mushrooms caps, sliced fairly thin
5 ounces morel mushrooms, approximately 1/2 cup or more if you like, sliced in half, or quartered
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 tablespoon fresh oregano
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup veal stock (beef stock can be substituted, if veal stock is unavailable)
pinch of salt and of fresh ground black pepper
2 ounces mascarpone cheese
5 ounces papardelle pasta (tagliatelle or fettuccine can be substituted if papardelle is not available)
1 pound scallops, lightly sauteed, optional
- Heat olive oil and butter over medium to medium-high heat. Add garlic and shallots. Saute for 3-5 minutes, until soft and beginning to caramelize, being careful not to let the garlic burn...that's not tasty.
- Add both varieties of mushrooms. Continue to saute for about 7 more minutes, or until the mushrooms are softening and coloring.
- Stir in herbs and let cook until they become fragrant.
- Add balsamic vinegar. Stir around pan to deglaze. The pan should sizzle and the vinegar should begin to reduce rather quickly.
- After 1 minute, add stock.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring sauce to heavy simmer, and let reduce for 7-10 minutes, uncovered.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. When rapidly boiling, add pasta and cook as per package direction.
- After sauce has simmered and reduced slightly, lower heat to medium, and stir in cheese. This will assist in thickening the sauce further. Taste and re-season with more salt if necessary (I usually add another 1/4 teaspoon says Becky).
- When pasta is perfectly cooked (Becky notes that she prefers the pasta to be a little al dente, but to each his own), drain and add to the mushroom sauce. Toss together and serve to 2 diners with the scallops on top, if desired.
- Becky notes that she usually tries to layer the large noodles on top of one another, then mounds the beautiful mushrooms on top and recommends garnishing with a few extra oregano leaves if desired.
Becky concludes her recipe by noting that "this is a fabulous meat free meal that tastes so rich, but if you would like to further gild the lily, you could pan sear a few scallops (like Steven and I decided to do), and place those on top. Scallops and woodsy mushrooms work beautifully together."