press dinner no. 2

“the pleasures of the table belong to all times and all ages, to every country and every day; they go hand in hand with all our other pleasures, outlast them, and remain to console use for their loss” – Brillat-Savarin, aphorism no. 7, translated by Anne Drayton


the other weekend k and i had some good friends over for another dinner party. the theme this time was “rustic french,” which is really just an attempt to label my heavy-handed attempt at making popular “french” food. the menu was:

lentil-walnut pâté
sweet buttery spread
whole-grain baguettes
champignons en matelote
asparagus and radish salad with a dijon vinaigrette
potato and turnip galette
fresh strawberries and roasted hazelnuts

lentil-walnut truffly amazement
lentil-walnut truffly amazement

we started dinner with some martinis and enjoyed a variety of french-style wines that the guests contributed throughout the dinner, one of which was a vin jaune which proved to be quite popular with dessert.


i was inspired to try my hand at making something french for one of our dinner parties partially by the quote by Brillat-Savarin above. gourmandism, lively and enriching conversation and simple french food are somehow indelibly connected in our social consciousness, perhaps due to the popularity and success of julia child, m. f. k. fisher or even the Professor himself. i wanted to see if that connection would remain if i were to take one of the most familiar french dishes and make it a little more animal-friendly. of course, i am still developing my skills as a photographer and do not have any pictures of the final product, for which i apologize. it was, however, a success, if you’ll believe it without photographic evidence. mushrooms in a wine sauce, or  champignons en matelote, as i decided to call it, is a comforting, rich dish that feels decadent simply due to its reputation, i think, rather than the recipe. the whole of “non-coq au vin” is greater than the sum of its parts as, although it does require a little more time than a basic stew, the process is straightforward and the ingredients are honest and simple. it’s luxuriousness is also probably due to the fact that the mushrooms are braised in two bottles of red wine, a process rarely practiced these days. while i made this dish for guests, i can envision a future desire to make it just for k and me on a rainy weekend, folding laundry and watching cheers while waiting for the sauce to reduce.

asparagus and radish salad with dijon vinaigrette
asparagus and radish salad with dijon vinaigrette

as for the other dishes, the recipe for the pâté came from anna monette roberts, but i incorporated some truffled vegan butter into the mixture and baked it in a bain-marie for an hour and fifteen minutes. it was very, very good. both the truffled and the sweet butter were riffs on mattie’s formula, using truffle oil and soy yogurt, respectively. my recipes still need some work, but i will be sure to share them as soon as i am happy with them. the bread came from peter reinhart’s the bread baker’s apprentice and the punitions, which were really, really tasty, came from smittenkitchen. apologies again for the missing photos of the main course, but, as you might imagine, it was very rustic and not the most photogenic of foods so you’re not missing much.

k and i have plans for another dinner party next month which will feature cuisine of an entirely different culture. stay in touch!

king oyster mushrooms
king oyster mushrooms

champignons en matelote
or, “non-coq au vin,” or “champignons bourguignon”
inspired by the man

2 to 2.5 lb king oyster mushrooms
1/3 c flour
salt and pepper
1 tbl or so dried porcini mushrooms
2 dozen pearl onions, peeled
1/4 c olive oil plus more, if needed
8 oz button or crimini mushrooms, quartered
2 750ml bottles red wine, Pinot Noir or Burgundy, par example
2 tbl tomato paste
1 large sweet onion, quartered
1 large carrot, peeled and chunked
2 stalks celery, chunked
5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
8 sprigs fresh thyme
2 c vegetable stock
2 tbl vegan butter
2 tbl flour

– preheat the oven to 325F
– coat the king oyster mushrooms with flour, season with salt and pepper, and set aside
– heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. add the dried porcinis and fry until crisp and dark brown. remove with a slotted spoon and reserve.
– add the peeled pearl onions to the hot pan and sautée until caramelized, about 5 minutes. remove from the pan and set aside.
– add the button or crimini mushrooms to the pan, adding more oil if necessary, and sautée until soft and browned, about 5 minutes. remove from pan and add to the reserved pearl onions.
– working in batches, sear the floured oyster mushrooms in the pan, adding more oil if necessary. place them in a dutch oven or large, ovenproof lidded pot when finished, along with the remaining oil
– deglaze the pan with 1/2 c of the wine and pour that with the rest of the two bottles into the oven
– toss the quartered onion, carrot, celery, thyme, garlic, tomato paste and vegetable stock into the dutch oven, put a lid on it and stick it in the oven for 2 hours
– remove the mushrooms and set aside. strain the sauce with a colander, discarding the veg and thyme. return the sauce to the pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. reduce the sauce by about a 1/3, simmering for 30 or so minutes, skimming occasionally
– while the sauce is simmering, shred the mushrooms with a fork
– make a paste with the 2 tbl butter and 2 tbl flour and whisk that into the sauce after it has simmered 30 minutes until fully incorporated
– return the shredded oyster mushrooms to the sauce and the reserved sautéed button mushrooms, pearl onions and toasted porcini mushrooms and combine. heat over medium heat until warmed through and thickened, about 8-10 minutes, and serve, garnished with parsley


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