Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Tasty Fungi

Over the past few days I've been trying out some new recipes with my wife and we came up with this one that seemed to be worth sharing!  It's loosely based on a recipe from a 2003 issue of Vegetarian Times, picked up from a library book sale (though we have so altered it that I'm not sure that it would be clear what it's based on anyway!).  The dish is called 'Mushroom Couscous Cakes' and it ended up being much better than either of us expected.  My wife made it clear from the start that she was skeptical, since she says that she does not like fungi, but once she tasted it she changed her mind!

This recipe seems to work best in a less formal setting, since the cakes are amazing when they first come off of the skillet, and it may be best for some people to start eating while others are waiting for their cakes to be prepared.  I highly recommend porcini mushrooms in the cakes, but the mushroom mix that goes on top could be made with any number of different types of fungi (e.g., chanterelles, morels, creminis/portobellos, etc.... I wonder if it could work with Umbilicaria....); we had shiitakes in our kitchen and they were great!

Mushroom Couscous Cakes

Serves 4

1/4 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
1/2 cup couscous
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 Tbs. all-purpose flour
Extra virgin olive oil, as needed

Mushroom Mixture:
1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lb. cleaned, dried shiitake mushrooms
Salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 Tbs. butter
1/4 tsp. Cavender's All-Purpose Greek Seasoning (a mix of salt, pepper, corn starch, garlic, MSG, and oregano)

To prepare dried mushrooms:
Put each type of mushroom in its own separate bowl, fill each bowl with warm water, squeeze mushrooms, pour off water, and repeat several times until mushrooms are reconstituted and the water remains somewhat clear when mushrooms are squeezed.

To make batter for cakes:
Chop porcini mushrooms very fine. Place couscous, 1/2 onion, salt, chopped porcini mushrooms, and 1 cup of water in a small saucepan.  Bring to a simmer, cover and reduce heat. Cook for 25 minutes or until couscous absorbs all liquid.  Transfer to mixing bowl and cool.  Stir in egg and flour.

To make mushroom mix:
Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add mushrooms, season with salt and cook, tossing from time to time, until mushrooms release moisture and begin to brown.  Add onions and garlic, cook 1 minute more and add wine.  Continue to cook until only a small bit of liquid remains.  Stir in butter and seasoning mix.  Transfer to bowl/saucepan and keep warm while making cakes. 

To make cakes:
Pour 1/8 inch layer of olive oil into a large skillet and heat over medium heat.  When oil is hot, drop in 2 tablespoon-sized mounds of couscous batter and flatten slightly (if they are too flat, they might start to come apart, but then you can make 'couscous cracklins' which are probably very good too!).  Cook until browned on bottoms, flip and brown top (we almost set off the fire alarm during this step!).  Repeat with remaining batter until used up.

To serve:
Toss each cake onto a small plate and top with a couple of tablespoons of the mushroom mixture.

My preferred way to eat them is to toss them onto a few napkins and squeeze the oil out of them before topping them with a handful of mushrooms.  This allows you to get the nice fried flavor with a little less fat, but it does somewhat deform the cakes!

I hope some of you reading this get a chance to try it!  Please let me know if you do!

- Brendan

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