It’s fair to say that the food I make is heavily influenced by the weather. Take this past Saturday, for example. On Saturday the fog in New York was thick enough to erase the view from my apartment, rendering the landscape milky white. I suppose I prefer to see the city obfuscated by a white of hazy, rather than snowy, precipitation, but the damp chill in the air makes me yearn for a comforting meal all the same.
With the intention of creating a bit of comfort in mind I headed into the kitchen early Saturday afternoon. I hadn’t really planned on being at the stove that day, at least not after breakfast, so when I set my mind on cooking a little lunch I had to scavenge for ingredients leftover from meals past. Searching the fridge, I found wild mushrooms, bought the prior day before that evening’s plans changed, as well as some frisee that never made it into salad and a single remaining vidalia onion. I also happened upon a half bottle of local organic cream, the surplus of a failed pastry attempt earlier that week. Between those finds and the garlic and herbs that are constant fixtures in my pantry, I was set to create something amazing.
When you have great ingredients to work with, beautiful meals come together with little effort. As much as I try to plan meals that are inventive most of the time, my best efforts are always those that come about haphazardly, like this one. Creating meals out of necessity with limited supplies is what brings out my creativity, forcing me to think outside the box of what I know has worked in the past to create something new out of the ingredients I have now.
This meal is the product of such creativity. The mushrooms are cooked down to a gentle earthiness with the onion, garlic, and rosemary. They are joined by the frisée, which provides a bright vegetal counterpoint to the mushrooms’ fleshy tenderness. Finished with cream, the dish has a milky resemblance of the fog outside. Rather than being dreary and cold, though, each bowl has a rich warmth, and brings the soothing comfort needed to brighten a gloomy day.
Quick, Creamy Mushrooms with Frisée
Serves two as a main dish, or four as a side
For crunch, I sprinkled toasted almonds over the finished dish. The traditional way to toast nuts would be to heat them in a low-temperature oven or in a pan over moderate heat until they smell fragrant but are not yet burnt. The much easier way is to zap them in the microwave for a minute, stirring halfway through. Don’t tell a real chef I said to do this – it’s super uncool – but it totally works.
I did this dish a complete injustice by not eating it with a hunk of toasty bread. Bread isn’t really something I have around my house much, but if you have some on hand you’re going to want to use it as a spongy mop for all the delicious cream in the bottom of the bowl.
2 cups mushrooms, preferably a mix of wild varieties
Salt and pepper
1 vidalia onion, sliced in half vertically and then thinly sliced horizontally into half-moons (you could alternatively half an ordinary onion, a few scallions, or even a leek)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp chopped rosemary
1 tbsp butter
1 head endive frisee – strip enough leaves to equal about half the volume of mushrooms (save the remainder for salad another day)
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup almonds, toasted and chopped
Sautee the mushrooms: Place a saucepan or pot over medium-high heat and add a few tablespoons of olive oil, enough to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the mushrooms. Season aggressively with salt and pepper – mushrooms require a lot of seasoning, and the cream added later will somewhat mute the dish, so you might need to compensate with more salt than you would normally use. Allow the mushrooms to cook for five minutes or so, in which time they will give off a lot of water and begin to collapse.
Add the aromatics: After the mushrooms have wilted a bit, add the onion, garlic, and rosemary. Cook for another minute or two until they become fragrant and the garlic turns lightly golden. Add the butter.
Stir in the frisée and cream: Add the frisée and cream, and bring to a simmer. You want to wilt the frisée a little bit so it loses most of its crunch. After two or three minutes the cream will have reduced. Stir to ensure that the cream is thoroughly mixed with the butter and olive oil.
Serve: Serve warm, garnishing with the toasted almonds.