February 24, 2008

Bob’s Yer Uncle

I know there are those (cough, cough… Tony Bourdain) who think he’s a bit too cheeky, a bloody fool, or perhaps some other British insult. But I happen to like Jamie Oliver, particularly his recent emphasis on supporting local, sustainable products—even though some (not me) might find his tactics a bit extreme.

I liked his old show on the Food Network -- even though the premise of always having some different friends coming over for this or that meal was annoying -- and I was pissed when it got canceled so those genius network execs could make way for more Rachel and Paula and Big Headed, cleavage-laden Italian gal.

So, I was really happy when I saw that he had a new show, even though it's on the same said evil network. And I really enjoy it. No false premises or goofy contrivances. Instead, he simply picks something from his ridiculous gardens or a local farm to highlight as the theme ingredient for each show: eggs, rhubarb, chiles, and so on.

The theme ingredient for one of my favorite episodes was the mushroom. The episode opened with Jamie and his chef pal, Genarro (sp?), tromping through nearby woods engaging in daring acts of mycology. Using some freshly picked porcinis, they used a small camping stove to make a mushroom bruschetta that looked quite remarkable (and it wasn’t even in HD!).

So I decided I’d try to duplicate it. I watched that segment from the show a second time and made it as an appetizer for a recent Sunday family dinner (and again tonight to accompany some straciatella).

It was one of the best things I’ve ever made. Now, granted, that’s not necessarily saying that much. But, nevertheless, do this right, and I guarantee the final product will elicit moans of delight. That, or your money back.

Note that there are no real measurements here, just some general guidance, which makes it a little bit of an adventure.

BTW, Sir Oliver also is the genesis of “Bob’s Yer Uncle.” I guess it means “That’s f#$@ing good!”

Mushroom Bruschetta (Adapted from Jamie at Home, “Mushrooms”)
  • Thinly sliced bread suitable for bruschetta, such as ciabatta
  • 2 packages of wild mushrooms, or 2 cups of chopped assorted mushrooms (baby bellas, shitake, crimini, etc., but NOT white buttons)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Butter
  • Crushed red pepper
  • Fresh thyme
  • Lemon, cut in half
  • Salt & pepper
  • Small glass of water

Crank up the oven and toast the bread slices (on a lower heat if you just want crispy bread, broil if you want it a little darker)

Put two swirls of olive oil in either a 10-inch saute pan or a larger saute pan, and turn the heat to medium-high.

When the pan is hot, 1-2 minutes, put in a handful or two of mushrooms. [NOTE: The key to success is not to crowd the pan. If the pan is jammed full with mushrooms, Jamie explained, the mushrooms will release all of their liquid and the dish will be runny. So regardless of the pan size, just be sure that each bit of mushroom pretty much has the room to lay flat of its own accord (at least that’s the formula I’ve been using).

Give the mushrooms a toss or two, add a healthy pinch of salt and pepper and a dash or two of crushed red pepper. Let them cook for a minute or two. Give the mushrooms another toss, and add some thyme from two or three thyme stems.

Toss again, let the mushrooms cook for another minute or so. When they’re getting soft, add a nice hunk of butter, maybe 1 tablespoon for a small pan and two if you’re going with a larger pan to avoid having to do batches. (Personally, I like doing the batches.)

Give the mushrooms another toss or two, and over the next minute or so, watch the whole thing get creamy. If you’d like it to be a little more saucy, add just like a teaspoon to a tablespoon of water and let it cook for another minute. Squeeze in about 10 drops of lemon juice, give one final toss, and it’s ready to eat.

Put a spoonful or two on each slice of bread, and be sure to get a little sauce on each slice.

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