Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mushroom Alfredo

Official Business: I just updated the URL for Wonderland Kitchen, and you can now get here from AlexsWonderlandKitchen.Blogspot.Com. I'm not sure if this affects anyone following via the Google Reader, but just wanted to let everyone know!

I never liked Mushrooms before this year. I could tolerate them if they were cut up really tiny in something, or if I didn't know they were there, but I just had a general distaste for their slippery texture. (Yes, 9 times out of ten it is the texture and not the taste that makes me not like a food) On my New Years Resolution of "trying new things" primarily where food is concerned, I ordered a Mushroom Alfredo dish at Mama Carolla's in Indianapolis. OH MY GOD was it good. It was really finely chopped and super creamy and smooth, and SO GOOD. I knew I had to make it for myself. I think this was the start of my mushroom acceptance.

While I have never figured out quite how their sauce was so grey or hit it quite on the head, I've made about a million different versions and they're all pretty good. Another benefit: it's pretty hard to mess up. You can use just about any kind of mushroom, any kind of seasoning, any kind of meat/pasta combination... you get the gist. Here's a recipe for the most recent version I did using Pancetta. This can be substituted with bacon, or if you don't want to use that at all you can just add a little bit of olive oil to the butter when you saute the mushrooms/garlic/onion.

1/4 lb diced pancetta (or bacon)
1/2 cup diced white onion
1 1/2 cups mushrooms of your choice
(I've used baby bellas, button, shitake... pretty much anything works)
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Cup heavy cream
1/2 cup shredded parmesean or Italian Mix cheese
Chili Powder
Salt and Pepper
Pasta of your choice
(I prefer any with more shape than just spaghetti/linguini to let the sauce get into all the little crevices. We used fresh Rigatoni from our local Italian market.)

Start by cooking the diced Pancetta or bacon in a skillet. If using Pancetta, keep in mind that it doesn't get quite as brown as bacon and don't overcook it or it will burn! Pancetta usually leaves less grease too, so just leave the drippings in the skillet. If the bacon leaves enough where you can easily spoon it out, remove some and leave just about a tablespoon in the pan.

(Now is also a good time to get your water boiling for the pasta in a separate pot.)

Add the butter to the skillet (and olive oil if you're not using the pancetta/bacon). Put the mushrooms in and let them cook for a few minutes. During this time you can dice the onion and then throw it in. Add the garlic. Cook until mushrooms become "squishy" when touched with the spoon and onions are becoming translucent. It's best if they're soft enough that you can kind of cut through them with the spoon. This generally will take around 10 minutes on medium high heat. About halfway through you'll want to get your pasta in if you're not using fresh pasta, which only takes a few minutes to cook.

Put the mushroom mixture into a food processor. Add about a 1/2 cup of the heavy cream at a time and blend. How much you blend it is really up to you... you can leave it chunky or keep breaking it down until it is more smooth and creamy. The color of the mixture will vary depending on the type of mushrooms you use. Add more of the heavy cream if necessary.

Once broken down to your preference, return to the skillet and add remaining heavy cream. You can always add more heavy cream than listed in the ingredients to get it to a consistency of your choosing, just add a little bit at a time to make sure it doesn't get too thin. Cook on medium-low heat while stirring for a few minutes, then add the 1/2 cup of cheese and mix in. At this point you can add salt and pepper to taste, and the same with the chili powder if you want to give it a little bit of an extra kick. I also added about 2/3 of the pancetta and mixed it in, leaving the rest for garnishing.

Add the pasta to the mixture and stir to evenly coat.

Plate the pasta and garnish with extra shredded parmesean/italian mix cheese and pancetta.


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