Alex Guarnaschelli is an Iron Chef, Food Network celebrity chef, author of Old-School Comfort Food and the executive chef at New York City’s Butter restaurants. Read her PEOPLE.com blog every Tuesday to get her professional cooking tips, family-favorite recipes and personal stories of working in front of the camera and behind the kitchen doors. Follow her on Twitter at @guarnaschelli.
There is so much talk about whether to wash mushrooms in water or wipe them with a cloth.
My rule is this: If I am about to cook them and they are really dirty, I give them a quick wash under water and them cook them immediately. The important thing is to make sure you don’t leave them soaking in water; ingredients that are already composed largely of water won’t have great flavor if they soak up more water. If they are not that dirty, wipe them with a cloth and cook — I recommend my recipe for White Mushrooms on Toasted Baguette (below).
I also love to stir in some greens with mushrooms. Mushrooms are meaty, and some nights when I want to have a lighter dinner that feels “meaty,” I cook up something like the Cremini Mushrooms and Spinach recipe (below), which is all about extracting the water from the mushrooms and the spinach to intensify the flavor. The vermouth/white wine adds nice acidity to the dish. You can also add dry sherry or Marsala. It’s the combination of the mushrooms with the wine and the spinach that gives this dish so much taste and makes it satisfying to eat.
White Mushrooms on Toasted Baguette
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium shallots, minced
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
About 1 lb. (14-16 oz.) white mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced
¼ cup dry Marsala
½ cup sour cream
2 sprigs fresh tarragon, stemmed
16 baguette rounds, ½ inch thick
1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
2. Cook the mushrooms: Heat a large saucepan over medium heat; combine the olive oil and minced shallots. Season with salt and the red pepper flakes and cook until tender, 3-5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and lower the heat. Add the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the mushrooms are tender and a lot of the liquid has evaporated at the bottom of the pan, 8-10 minutes. Remove and discard the sprigs of thyme.
3. Finish cooking: Add the Marsala to the mushrooms and cook until the flavor of the alcohol has mellowed considerably, 3-5 minutes. Shut off the heat and add the sour cream and allow it to melt over the mushrooms. Check the seasoning. Add the tarragon. Taste for seasoning. Bring to a simmer and then shut off the heat.
4. Serve: Arrange the bread slices in a single layer on a baking sheet. Place the tray in the center of the oven and toast the bread until light brown, 6-8 minutes. Spoon the mushroom mix on the toast and serve immediately or let people spoon it on themselves.
Cremini Mushrooms and Spinach
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 lb. cremini mushrooms, cleaned
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
2 tsp. smooth (Dijon) mustard
1 lb. spinach leaves
1. Cook the mushrooms: Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the olive oil, thyme and the mushrooms. Then add the minced garlic and lower the heat. Season with salt and pepper and cook until translucent, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the garlic. Cook over medium heat until the mushrooms are tender and a lot of the liquid has evaporated at the bottom of the pan, 6-8 minutes. Remove and discard the sprigs of thyme.
2. Add the vermouth (or dry white wine) and mustard to the mushrooms and cook over medium to high heat until the flavor of the alcohol has mellowed considerably, 2-3 minutes. Shut off the heat and gently stir in the spinach leaves so they wilt slightly. Add a sprinkle of salt. Taste for seasoning.