Creamy Mushroom Pasta

I adore mushrooms.  I just love their earthiness.  A lot of people like them as a meat replacement in meals because they are fairly hearty.  This is completely ok with me, but my husband doesn’t quite agree.  Of course, the person who plans and prepares the meals has final say, and so sometimes he has to just put on his best game face and muddle through without meat.  Though he will often comment that a dish might be better with some meat added…. as is the case with today’s Creamy Mushroom Pasta in which he suggested pouring the mushrooms over some steak, he usually admits that it was pretty dang good and he can handle it without.

This particular dish is definitely satisfying and unless you’re a pure carnivore like my husband you won’t miss the meat.  When a dish calls for a lot of mushrooms I like to get a mix if I can.  Today I went with half and half cremini and white button mushrooms.  The recipe also left me with a choice to make regarding the cheese used, calling only for “tasty cheese”.  Knowing that it was an age old pairing I went with Gruyere, which if you are unfamiliar resembles a Swiss cheese.  Any Swiss cheese would be a good choice for this.  In fact I found an applewood smoked Swiss cheese at the store that I ALMOST went with but decided last minute on the gruyere…. maybe next time.

According to the blog in which I found this recipe it was created with an inspiration of removing the “cream of soup” aspect.  I never saw, or tried the original recipe, but I can definitely vouch for it’s success in producing a cream of mushroom soup taste, however with a definite fresher note.  I especially liked the thyme coming through in this… another age old pairing with mushrooms.  The dish holds up beautifully as leftovers, allowing me to enjoy it for lunch the next few days which is always a plus too.  One variation I might try next time is to add a splash or two of some white wine to bring a brightness and cut through some of the heaviness of the dish, but you definitely can’t go wrong with this recipe as written if you are in the mood for a great comfort dish!

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Creamy Mushroom Pasta

Ingredients :

  • 2 T. butter
  • 1 tsp. cooking oil
  • 1 brown onion, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 5 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 400g sliced mushrooms (I used two 8oz packages from the store)
  • 4 T. all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup low fat milk
  • 1 cup tasty cheese (see note above)
  • 250g shell pasta, cooked according to package directions

Directions :

  1. Melt butter with a teaspoon of cooking oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  When butter begins to bubble, add onion, garlic and thyme. Saute until the onion is translucent and the garlic becomes aromatic.
  2. Add sliced mushrooms and mix well.  Allow the mushrooms to cook until their size reduces to about half and they are browned.  Sprinkle flour over the mushrooms and mix well.  Continue to cook, stirring for about a minute to cook out the raw flour flavor taking care not to burn it.
  3. Add vegetable stock, a quarter cup at a time.  Stir to combine each time and allow the mixture cook over a low heat and thicken between each addition.  Once all the stock has been incorporated, add the milk and again allow it to simmer and thicken. Once it resembles cream of mushroom soup add the cheese.  Cook until cheese has melted and the sauce becomes thick (like a velvety cheese sauce).  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Toss in the cooked pasta shells and serve topped with a bit more thyme.  Other optional toppings suggested are some red pepper flakes, parsley, or a bit more pepper.

Recipe from Fuss Free Cooking

Published in: on April 21, 2015 at 8:19 am  Comments (1)  
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Spinach & Prosciutto Frittata

Frittatas are one of those magical things that look gorgeous, taste great, and are SO versatile.  You can seriously use just about anything you want in them making it the perfect dish to use up leftover produce, meat, cheese, etc.  They also take little effort, most come together quickly, and they serve a lot of people.  All you need is an oven safe skillet, but even that is just ideal.  You could get away with making these in cake pans, pie dishes, casserole dishes, or whatever you want.  It just looks more impressive in the skillet, and saves a few steps/dishes.  I actually have been meaning to try this for a long time …. kind of shocking that I haven’t actually other than a mini version in a muffin pan …. but I was waiting until I had a cast iron skillet.  And well… now I do!

I didn’t really follow any one recipe for mine.  I looked at a few for inspiration and to get an idea of the egg to cream ratio, as well as the cook times, but after that I just winged it so to speak and put whatever I wanted in it.  It turned out pretty dang good, but I think next time I would put even more of some of the ingredients in.  I just hadn’t wanted to over-do it and have it not turn out.  Now that I know it can hold more I won’t be shy.  Since I did wing it I am going to give pretty close estimations of what I used, but I encourage you to adjust to your tastes or if you want to play it safe like me for the first time use what I put down.

I said frittatas come together quickly most of the time, and that is true, but with these particular ingredients there are a couple more steps.  You might be tempted to take a shortcut and try cooking some of them together, but I think you might run into issues if you do, so I suggest just taking the time to do each separate and do them well.  I promise it sounds like more work than it really is.  As I mentioned I used a cast iron skillet and most of the recipes I read through suggested the same, as I think it does best with the sticking factor.  Also many suggested butter as a greasing agent to really be sure it won’t stick and who am I to argue.  If you want those perfect slices of frittata that look so impressive you can handle the little bit of extra fat/calories.

Anyway, I would call my first frittata a major success and you can be sure I will be trying other variations in the future and I imagine many of them will make it on here, so be on the look out!

Spinach & Prosciutto Frittata

Serves : 4-8 (4 for like a dinner, or 8 for like a brunch)

Ingredients :

  • 8 eggs
  • 1/3 cup cream (you can use milk, but the cream really makes it good!)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • salt and pepper to taste (you won’t need much salt because of the prosciutto and cheese so go light to start and you can always season at the table)
  • 3 oz. package prosciutto, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach (basically two large handfuls, it really cooks down)
  • 5-6 crimini mushrooms (I think I would use a couple more next time)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2/3 cups grated gruyere
  • 1/3 cup fresh grated parmesan (a large grate as opposed to a fine grate)
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives, sliced (I would use a little more next time)
  • 8-10 cherry tomatoes, halved and seeded (I would use a few more of these too)
  • 5-6 leaves of fresh basil, cut into a chiffonade (basically roll them up cigar style, and slice them into thin strips)
  • 2-3 T. butter, divided

Directions :

  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. In a large cast iron skillet heat a small bit of olive oil over medium-high heat, and cook your chopped prosciutto until crispy.  Remove and place on a paper towel to drain the grease. 
  3. Next put about 1 T. of the butter into the skillet and saute your mushrooms over a medium high heat.  To really get some nice color don’t overcrowd the skillet and let them sit for a minute before you try to move them around.  When they are just about perfectly golden throw in the garlic just to take the bitter edge off and let it get fragrant.  Remove to a bowl.
  4. Wipe out any leftover bits, then place your skillet back on a medium heat and throw in your spinach.  Cook it just until it wilts down and then remove it and let cool for a few minutes.  Once cool wring all the moisture out that you can and roughly chop it.
  5. While the spinach is cooling whisk together eggs, cream, baking powder, and salt and pepper.  Let sit for about 5-7 minutes as you finish preparations.
  6. Once you have all your ingredients ready to go, heat the skillet back up over medium-low heat and run the rest of your butter around the sides, and bottom.  Pour in your eggs, and after a minute or so start sprinkling in your basil, prosciutto, mushrooms, and spinach.  Then spread the cheese evenly over and sort of press it down a little so it sinks into the eggs, which should be slowly starting to set up ever so slightly.  Spread around your olives, and tomatoes taking care to make it look pretty of course.  Once the eggs starts to firm up a bit around the edges place your skillet into the preheated oven and bake for about 5-10 minutes until fully set.  You will know this  has occurred when there is not wiggle left in the center when you lightly shake the skillet. 
  7. Turn on the broiler and allow the top to ever so slightly start to brown before removing from oven.  Let it sit for a minute or two and loosen the edges before you try to cut it and carefully remove your slices to serve.


Croque Monsieur

First an admission… I chose this sandwich because of the name.  There is just something fun about making something that has a fancy foreign name.  Well it’s foreign to me at least.  I had heard the name before, but wasn’t sure exactly what it was.  Upon further inspection I realized it was a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, but then it is topped with a bechamel sauce and more cheese!  I was intrigued, but slightly doubtful about putting sauce on top and it turning the sandwich mushy/soggy.  I was very pleasantly surprised however when I took my first bite and was hit by SO much cheesy, salty, creamy flavor, and was glad the sandwich not only held up to the sauce, but still had a bit of crust to it.  The sauce does soften the tops a little, but you still have your bottom crust and the sides, and as long as you make sure to get a nice crisp golden crust when you are making the sandwiches you will be good to go.

This was another one of those recipes that needed a bit of converting, and I hadn’t realized how much cheese I would be using when I put it on my menu plan.  So I would definitely say this is not “diet” food, but for those days you want to reward yourself for your efforts and indulge a little this is the thing to try!  It’s very simple to make, with the only touchy part being the bechamel sauce.  My advice is just to have your ingredients measured out and sitting next to you so you can give full attention to  your sauce the entire time and not be running around your kitchen trying to keep up.  Furthermore I made my sandwiches first and set them aside and THEN tackled the sauce so I wouldn’t get distracted.  I am a good cook, but I am not the world’s best multitasker in the kitchen lol.  I get a little frazzled at times.  Anyway, when making the bechamel you really don’t want to turn the heat up too high…. the recipe says medium heat and I went with a medium-low on mine.  Melt your butter, add the garlic until it’s just fragrant, and then when you add your flour watch is closely, and keep it moving.  You don’t want the flour to burn and it will quickly if you aren’t careful.  Then when it’s time to add the milk you want to pour slowly (like a drizzle) and whisk the entire time you are pouring to avoid lumps and then keep whisking the entire cook time so it doesn’t clump or stick/burn.  It sounds  harder than it is, but as long as you go at it with this knowledge and stay focused it will turn out perfectly creamy and thick.

My gruyere didn’t want to slice very well, so I ended up grating it all.  I then put some on both sides of the bread and sandwiched the ham in between.  When I put it on top and broiled them at the end I ended up with a lot of grease (I may have put a little too much) so I just took a paper towel and dabbed the excess grease off and put them back under for a while to start to brown the cheese slightly.  Now for the conversion…. I don’t know why but I was having a heck of a time to figuring it out, so I just bought an 8oz block of gruyere and used most of it, and eyeballed everything.  I didn’t even bother measuring the ham and just used about 5-6 slices per sandwich.  For the bread I used a nice large sourdough loaf already cut into slices from the store and used the middle (largest) slices.  Finally the recipe called for shichimi togarashi at the end (listed as optional) and I assumed it was some sort of hot sauce or spice but had no idea so I left it off, so I can’t comment on that addition.


Croque Monsieur

Serves : 2                

Ingredients :

  • 2 T. butter
  • 2 T. all purpose flour
  • 1 C. skim milk
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 bay leaf ( I only now realize I forgot this entirely, but I guess it wasn’t necessary for a good result)
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 4 slices firm white sandwich bread
  • 100 g. sliced gruyere (I used about 4oz. grated)
  • 100 g. thinly sliced ham of your choice (I used about 10-12 slices)
  • 1 T. melted butter
  • 1/4 cup grated gruyere cheese
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh chives
  • Dash of shichimi togarashi (optional)

Directions :

  1. Assemble sandwiches with half the sliced gruyere (or in my case grated) and ham each and brush with melted butter (I actually used spray butter).  Heat a non-stick large skillet over medium-high heat and cook sandwiches until deep golden on both sides.  Set on a baking sheet and start your sauce.
  2. In a small saucepan melt butter over medium heat (see notes above).  Add in your garlic and stir around until fragrant.  Add flour and stir to work out any clumps, watching closely so it doesn’t burn for about a minute.  Slowly pour in milk whisking the entire time to avoid clumping.  Once all the milk is in stir in nutmeg and add your bay leaf.  Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil.  Continue whisking the entire time, and allow sauce to thicken; about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat, remove bay leaf and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat broiler.  Spoon sauce over tops of sandwiches and top with remaining 1/4 cup of cheese.  Place under broiler and allow cheese to melt and start to brown a little.  Serve with chopped chives and shichimi togarashi on top.

Recipe from sushi bytes