By Jenna Rozelle
When I was rummaging through the pleasure files to try and choose these three meals, I asked my husband for suggestions and one of them was “stroganoff”, which I waved off as too infantile for this piece, despite my deep abiding love for it. When I had decided on my perfect three, I read my husband “Porcini Pappardelle with Cream and Herbs” and he said, “So, essentially, stroganoff.” I love-hate that he’s always right. I’ll admit, one might call this a kind of high-brow stroganoff, and that may be why it’s so good - it’s a nod to pure comfort food, but it looks great under candlelight on a white tablecloth. Picking your own porcini mushrooms will add to the sentimentality and get you bragging rights, but in this magical modern world you can get dried porcini at most grocery stores for just a few dollars and they taste just as good. If not porcini, it’s equally nice with black trumpet or maitake mushrooms, and I sometimes like to include wild herbs like sweet fern with the thyme to really call it home. Pour yourself a glass of something Italian, Dombrowski insists, “...perhaps an affordable barbera from d’alba or d’asti (the Renato Ratti Battiglione is a favorite) or a splurge like the Guido Porro Barolo, which, if you’re an underpaid writer you doubtless deserve.” Eat warm, with a simple salad after.
- 8.8 oz pappardelle pasta (standard-sized package, dried)
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 large clove garlic, sliced
- 2 oz dried porcini mushrooms
- ½ cup boiling water
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 3 Tbsp creme fraiche
- 5 sprigs of thyme, leaves stripped from stems
- 2 oz freshly grated parmesan
- A few grates of fresh nutmeg, optional but nice
- A few turns of cracked pepper to serve
1. About 30 minutes before you begin cooking, put your dried mushrooms in a bowl and cover them with ½ cup boiling water, or enough to completely cover the mushrooms.
2. Cover the bowl with a plate and set aside.
3. Put a large pot of generously salted water on to boil.
4. Set a large pan over low heat and add olive oil.
5. Add shallots and cook gently for a few minutes until softened.
6. Add garlic and cook a minute or two more until that is softened, too.
7. When your pasta water is boiling, add your pasta and cook to al dente according to the directions on the package. Before draining, be sure to reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and set aside.
8. Scoop out about half of the hydrated mushrooms with your hand, gently squeeze out the liquid over the bowl, and chop the mushrooms. You may chop all of them, especially if they are large irregular chunks, but if there are any bite-sized, nicely shaped pieces, I like to leave those whole, purely to eat with the eyes.
9. Add mushrooms and ½ cup of their liquid to the pan along with the cream, parmesan, and nutmeg. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir to mix and simmer gently a few minutes to thicken.
10. Add drained pasta, ¼-½ cup of pasta water, creme fraiche, and all of the thyme, save for a healthy pinch to sprinkle on the plate.
11. Lower your heat a little and stir all of this gently to mix. Add a splash of mushroom liquid or pasta water if the sauce is too thick, or simmer down if it’s too thin, tossing the pasta gently to coat.
12. Portion onto plates, top with a spoon of sauce from the pan, a few grates of parmesan, a few cracks of pepper, and the rest of the thyme.
13. Sit, cheers, eat while hot.
For more, read Five Questions and Three Recipes with Jenna Rozelle.