It is March 1st and my first Monday off in about five or six weeks. I fulfilled my duties on “How To Make It In America” and today I’m only going back for a group hug and to drop off my parking pass. I had fun, but I missed filling out these pages with silly nonsense and my experimental recipes. I’m so thrilled to be back in the kitchen.
Last Sunday I spent tucked under a blanket and surrounded by my cookbooks. As I leafed through the pages time stood still. Cosmo curled up on my pillow and rested his chin on my shoulder with a gentle sigh. A tiny spider treaded by whistling quietly not to disturb. I was as captivated as a 7-year old reading fairy tales and stories by Hans Christian Andersen.
Our dinner table hasn’t seen much meat over the last couple of months, which I am proud of. However, the cook in me longs to explore new culinary regions and foreign territories. I know I won’t be discovering new lands. Nevertheless the thrill will be of the same magnitude as if traveling to an exotic country, whatever that means to you – Vietnam, Zimbabwe, or Poland. Hence, I’m thinking Pork Chops with Roasted Beets, Cornish Hens and Dill-dusted New Potatoes, Duck with Madera Sauce, Leg of a Lamb with Caramelized Endives and Frisée with Lavender-Honey Dressing. Somebody pinch me, HARD, for I’m drooling dreaming.
Certainly, I won’t whip it all out in a day, or even one week. Those dinners are coming up, I assure you. It’s time to sharpen your knives and fast for the upcoming feast.
Look what I did last night – SWEET POTATO AND PORTOBELLO MUSHROOM CUPCAKE. Ok, it is not a cupcake, but one could be fooled.
After making out with the cookbooks I was so powered up and inspired I was buzzing. Jason came in to the bedroom and asked me:
WHAT’S FOR DINNER?
Before he realized what happened I was stuck in our refrigerator head first plotting the menu. When he followed me to the kitchen he stumbled upon a headless body sticking out of the icebox accompanied by various food articles shooting out and landing on the kitchen counter. There were 2 GIANT MUSHROOMS (which my Jason HATES), fresh sage, parsley, gorgonzola cheese, chicken stock, 1 egg, and a box of diced pancetta. From a veggie basket I grabbed 2 shallots, a couple of garlic cloves and 4 sweet potatoes.
The potatoes got peeled, washed, cubed and tossed into a pot with chicken stock and a touch of salt. When those cooked I minced garlic and shallots, and chopped a handful of sage. I tossed pancetta onto a hot skillet, let the fat render and added my minced and chopped goods. Seasoned with a touch of salt they sautéed for a couple of minutes, until cooked and drained potatoes arrived. Everything was mixed together, seasoned with more salt and black pepper to taste, and then crushed and mashed.
Mashed Sweet Potatoes were done.
In the meantime, I wiped the mushrooms with a damp paper towel, as it’s not a good idea to wash them under running water. Mushrooms soak it up, and their flavor gets compromised severely.
Two small bowls came out of a cupboard. In one bowl I beat the egg; the other one was for flour, which I seasoned with salt and pepper and a few springs of fresh thyme. The mushroom hats were dusted in the flour, then coated with egg and gently set onto a hot skillet with a tablespoon or so of olive oil. I let them cook topside down first for about 10 minutes over a low heat, then flipped over and covered with a few slices of gorgonzola. The guys cooked until the cheese began to melt.
I was ready to plate. First I scooped my MASHED SWEET POTATOES with shallots, sage and pancetta. Then I topped the mound with my beautiful PORTOBELLO HAT. The “muffin” was then showered with chopped parsley and the plate landed in front of Jason’s face.
My cheeks were the color of roses due to the heat and excitement over my new creation. The church bells rang in the distance and a hummingbird got trapped inside my chest. I was terrified that Jason would take a bite and spit it out across the room. Then he would throw his fork at me and thus nail me to the wall behind my back. Have I mentioned he HATES MUSHROOMS?
Why would I even take my chances, you ask. It’s obvious! I’m from Poland, where mushroom picking is a common hobby and people take it seriously. I grew up picking, cleaning, drying and cooking varieties of mushrooms you’ve never heard of. I LOVE MUSHROOMS. My mother sends me boxes of dried wild mushrooms in mail. My cousin smuggled a bag of those stinkers for me in her backpack across the US border. I am compelled to find a way to help Jason overcome his fear of fungi.
Luckily, it’s more about the texture than the flavor itself. He’s an enthusiast of my MUSHROOM-BARLEY SOUP, where the hero of the day gets chopped up in a food processor. However, a PORTOBELLO STEAK is a different story. I stood motionless by the table, keeping a safe distance, while Jason was testing the waters. The first bite in and down. Nothing. No sirens. No thunders. No knives in the air.
I DON’T KNOW YET.
Another morsel of food went into his mouth.
HM… I THINK I LIKE IT.
Phew! A giant swig of air I was subconsciously holding in my lungs escaped with a loud and uncontrolled whistle. I could not believe my eyes. Jason was eating away his MUSHROOM MUFFIN, his ears striking and tail wiggling in full contentment.
THIS IS YUMMY!
I must have done something right. I can’t wait to take Jason mushroom picking in Poland. That will be a trip in its own right.