On Carbo Loading (Or, Why Reason Does Not Equal Logic)

Today I registered for the Brooklyn Half Marathon. Yesterday I entered the lottery for the New York City Marathon. Given the serious training regimens races of this caliber require, it is only sensible that today I share with you a recipe for mushroom lasagne. And before my attempt at athletic prowess lead you to think that this is some sort of health recipe consisting of little more than fresh organic mushrooms, low-sodium tomato sauce, and gluten-free noodles, note that this recipe contains not two or three but, indeed, five different kinds of cheese. And, let’s be honest, that’s not even making mention of the butter and whole milk.

Mushroom Lasagna Slice

I could reason that at the least, such a decadent recipe might be good for carbo loading, but, if we’re continuing with this honesty streak, we know that any of the benefits of the lasagne noodles are negated by the pure fat they are swimming in. If running 26.2 miles won’t hurt your bowels, I’m pretty sure all this dairy might (at least, if you have even a whiff of lactose intolerance). Logically, this should be the last thing I am tempted to eat while training, and, yet…

I’ve been telling myself that now is the time to run these various races because of some recent medical adventures that have left me feeling like now is the time to get started on some of these bucket list items. Lest I panic anyone, I am perfectly healthy and not facing any sort of impending peril. And yet, one week with a few too many doctor’s appointments (even though they didn’t indicate anything wrong) have left me feeling like the time is neigh. Logical? No. Reasonable? I’d like to think so. And what does this have to do with mushroom lasagne and running? Well, if I can’t convince myself the recipe is good for me while training, I can at least reason that I’ll have earned it after the race.

Mushroom Lasagna Section

Mushroom Lasagne

Adapted from Plenty

Makes 6-8 servings

1 1/4 ounce dried porcini mushrooms

1 3/4 cups warm water

11 tablespoons unsalted butter (separated into two portions of 5 1/2 tablespoons)

2 pounds mushrooms, sliced (a mix is best)

1 tablespoon thyme leaves

2 tablespoons tarragon, chopped

4 tablespoons parsley, chopped

salt and pepper

1 shallot, chopped

1/2 cup flour

2 1/3 cup whole milk

13 ounces ricotta

1 egg

5 ounces feta, crumbled

6 ounces Gruyere, grated

1 pound dried lasagne

5 ounces mozzarella, grated

1/2 cup Parmesan, grated

Mushroom Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the dried porcini and water in a bowl for 5 minutes. Drain the mushrooms, making sure to get out as much liquid as possible. Save the liquid for later in the recipe.

Melt 5 1/2 tablespoons of the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the thyme, dried mushrooms, and fresh mushrooms. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it looks like the fresh mushrooms have started releasing some of their liquid. Take the pot off the heat and the the tarragon, parsley, and salt and pepper to season. Set aside in a bowl.

Using the same pan you used to cook the mushrooms, make the béchamel. Melt the remaining butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook for a minute. Add the flour and stir constantly for about 2 minutes, until the mixture turns to a paste but does not change color. Add the milk and the reserved mushroom liquid slowly, whisking with each addition. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and whisk until the mixture is boiling. Simmer, stirring constantly, until the sauce starts to become thick, and then remove from heat. This should take about 8 minutes.

Bechamel

In a separate bowl, mix together the ricotta and egg, and add 3 tablespoons of the sauce you just made. Add the feta. Add the remaining Gruyere to the béchamel.

Being careful so that they do not stick together, pour boiling water over the lasagne noodles. Soak for 2 minutes, then remove and dry on a cheesecloth or tea towel.

Mushroom Lasagna

Prepare a 10 by 14 inch dish to assemble the lasagne. Pour one fifth of the béchamel on the bottom of the dish. Add a layer of lasagne noodles. Add one quarter of the ricotta mix on top, and then one quarter of the mushrooms, and then one quarter of the mozzarella. Repeat again, beginning with the béchamel, until you have used up all of the components. Finish with a layer of a noodles covered with béchamel. Finally, sprinkle the parmesan on top, cover the dish loosely with foil, and bake for 50 minutes. Remove the foil when there are 10 minutes left in the cooking time to allow the cheese to brown. The dish is ready when the cheese is golden and the sauce is bubbling at the sides. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Mushroom Risotto

Lest you think the only things I make in my brand new Le Creuset are fat- and flour-laden, I must share with you this recipe for mushroom risotto. Being delicious, easy-to-make, and extremely healthy (and vegan, but please, let’s not dwell on that), this recipe is clearly a standout in my kitchen, where many of the recipes meet two, but rarely all three of those qualities.

Healthy Mushroom Risotto

I’m not quite sure how this risotto manages to be so creamy and hearty—it has none of the butter or cheese of the other risotto recipe I have written up for you. I have heard murmurs from the food science blogging community that this has something to do with the high amount of starch in Arborio rice. Apparently if you break the starches down enough (even if it is just with vegetable stock instead of various fats) it will invariably result in a very pleasing and smooth texture.  Mushrooms and onions add an amazing depth of earthy flavor to this dish, but I can’t wait to experiment with other flavor profiles.

And on the note of experimenting in the kitchen (and shameless self-promotion), I’ll be competing in South Bar’s chili competition this Sunday. I’ll be making (my hopefully soon-to-be famous) Triple B: Beer, Beef, and Bacon Chili. So come by, do some day drinking, and taste many flavorful and amazing chilis!  Recipe for the Triple B coming soon!

Fresh Mushrooms

Mushroom Risotto

Adapted from the Kitchn

1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, finely chopped

2 cups boiling water

1/3 cup olive oil

4 medium yellow onions

6 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 pound cremini or similar mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

1 spring fresh rosemary (you can also use dried rosemary or not use it)

1 cup Arborio rice

1/2 cup dry white wine

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 cups vegetable broth

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Risotto Making

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Soak the dried mushrooms in the water and set them aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Finely chop one of the onions and add to the dutch oven. Add the garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes, until the onions have softened and begun turning golden brown. Move the onions to one side of the Dutch oven.

Dried Mushrooms

Increase the heat to medium-high, add the cremini mushrooms and let cook for 5 minutes without stirring. Then, flip the mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes. The mushrooms should be brown and there should be some browning on the bottom of the pan.

Earthy Flavor

Drain the mushrooms that were soaking (hold on to the liquid) and add them to the dutch oven. Add the rosemary and mix everything in the pan together, letting it sauté for a few minutes. Add the rice, and stir occasionally for about 5 minutes, until the rice begins to turn transparent.

Turn the heat to high, and add the vegetable broth, wine, balsamic vinegar, mushroom liquid, salt, and pepper. Stir, and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any of the brown deliciousness that should have formed on the bottom of the dutch oven.

Once the mixture is boiling, cover it with a lid, and put in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes. It is ready to be taken out of the oven when it looks like most of the liquids have been absorbed, but it still looks very moist. Remove it from the oven and let it cool for 5 minutes before serving.

While the risotto is baking in the oven, prepare the onions. Heat the remaining olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cut the remaining three onions into thin slices, and add to the skillet. Sprinkle them with salt liberally, and reduce the heat to low. Let the onions cook for at least 30 minutes, until they are very soft and turning brown.

Preglazed Onions

Spoon the onions over the risotto. Voila!

Festive Goat Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms and Christmas Eve in Review

This year’s Christmas Eve (and Christmas, if you’re into that sort of thing) was a raging success. The borscht and vodka flowed freely, Sto Lat was sung at least a half of a dozen times, and the seven-plus fish (Harry and I counted ten) were thoroughly feasted upon. All new guests passed the Fish in Gelatin Challenge (a feat in which one must eat unflavored fish cooked in unflavored gelatin–my father’s favorite dish, everyone else’s nightmare) and are welcome to future Christmas Eves.

Barszcz z Uszkami

Fish in Gelatin

In fact, minus a small hiccup on Christmas morning after my mother swallowed a fish bone and we spent a few hours in the ER (she is totally fine now, I swear, we even went to Christmas dinner afterwards), the only being that seemed anything less that utterly satisfied with the festivities was this little guy, who had to be caged for “his own” protection, and made a valiant escape effort when he was briefly let out for his annual Christmas carrot feast.

Bunnnnniiiiiii

And while I’d like to take some credit for the evening’s fun and tasty times, I know it was mostly pulled off because of the weeks of planning and food preparation that Mommy Anigacz put in. From gutting dozens of pounds of fish, to sealing hundreds of pierogis and mushroom dumplings, to decorating the house and buying presents, Mommy Anigacz had a busy December. Thank you, Mommy Anigacz, for your tireless efforts at orchestrating Christmas Eves–this year’s Christmas Eve, like all previous ones and ones yet to come, was memorable. Please keep it up for at least a few more years–I am so overwhelmed and not anywhere close to ready to take over preparing this feast.

The Pre-Appetizers

The Cold Fish Round

Christmas Breakfast

In comparison to the twenty or so dishes that my mother prepared, Harry and I contributed a meager two. And while they may not have been enough to feed a crowd, they surely seemed like crowd-pleasers–and boy did they look festive. My constant admonitions to guests to pace themselves as they ate were heard, and both our goat-cheese stuffed mushrooms (recipe below) and red wine chocolate cake with mascarpone frosting and sea salt flakes (recipe coming soon), were almost completely finished. Glad you liked them, everyone, and so glad you could come and celebrate with the Anigacz’s!

Goat Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

Merry Christmas!

Goat Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

Adapted from Martha Stewart

Makes 28 stuffed mushrooms

Olive oil, enough to thinly coat a baking sheet

28 white button mushrooms, cleaned and stemmed

3 slices white bread

2 cloves garlic

7 ounces soft goat cheese

1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves

1/2 red bell pepper

1/2 green bell pepper

A little less than 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Thinly coat a baking sheet with olive oil. Don’t use too much oil, or else it will start smoking in the oven.

Pulse the bread and garlic in a food processor until it has turned into fine crumbs. Remove and save 1/2 cup of the breadcrumbs.

Ready for Crumbing

Homemade Breadcrumbs

Add the cheese, peppers, parsley, red pepper flakes, and salt to the remaining bread crumbs in the food processor. Pulse until combined. it may be easiest to do this in batches. If your goat cheese is very soft, you may want to process the other ingredients in the food processor, and then combine those with the soft cheese in a separate bowl. Just do what you have to do to get all of the ingredients combined.

Festive Peppers

Ready to Be Pulverized

Fill the mushrooms with the goat cheese mixture. Sprinkle with the reserved bread crumbs.

The Cheese Stuffing is Pulverized

Place on baking sheet, and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the mushrooms and breadcrumbs have browned. Let cool for 10 minutes, and make sure to use a plate when eating–these mushrooms are juicy!

Festive Goat Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms