Monday, April 30, 2012

Truffled Mushroom Ragout

The past week has been really strange for me. I'm done writing my thesis and another paper I had to write for my internship this semester, leaving me with only my research assistant duties and actually going to said internship at the Saint Louis Art Museum. So yesterday, Sunday, I had no papers to write, no pages to edit, no journals or articles to read, nothing.

Is this what Sundays are like for normal people?

I didn't know what to do with myself. I had this whole day, wide open — something that I haven't had in, well, forever. At least not in a way that looked like it might be a consistent occurence. My thesis has filled up every little nook and cranny of my life for the past year, and now it's done and I feel like an empty-nester.

I did some laundry,  half-heartedly dusted the floors, and stood around aimlessly. Darla suggested I play fetch with her, but after ten minutes of that, I still didn't have anything else to do.

So by the time the acceptable time rolled around to make dinner, I pounced on the chance. I really need to get another hobby now that there is more time in the day.

The day Justin and I got engaged, we were on our first trip outside of Rome while studying abroad in Italy. We were in Assisi, possible the most enchanting little village on Earth. It's a town wedged in a perilously steep hillside surrounded by Tuscan countryside. It's narrow cobblestoned streets hide tiny restaurants and shops that you practically need a map to find.

After getting engaged here —

— We ate dinner in one of those itty bitty restaurants. I got truffled mushroom pasta. I'm not sure if it was the high of getting engaged or if the pasta really was that good, but it was unbelievable. I've been trying to recreate it ever since, with no success.

So I was trying, for the millionth time, to make this pasta on this lazy Sunday. It still isn't the same thing, but it's still pretty tasty.

{Printable Recipe}
1 package button mushrooms, sliced
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup half-and-half
1 tsp chopped black truffles (available at Whole Foods in the gourmet cheese/olive section, or online at Amazon)
pinch red pepper flakes
1 sprig thyme
1/2 lb short pasta (we used Casarecce)
2 chicken thighs, shredded


Michael Pollan says that mushrooms are symbolism for decay and rebirth due to their nature of breaking down forests and plant life so that others can flourish. Pretty deep for a fungi.

Slice the mushrooms. Saute them in a tablespoon or so of butter along with the red pepper, some salt, and the thyme.

Cook until nicely browned.
Meanwhile, boil the noodles.

Add the chicken broth to the mushrooms and let it reduce for five minutes. Add the half-and-half, chicken, and truffles. Let it simmer while the pasta is finishing up; then add the noodles and cook for an additional five minutes so that the sauce gets nice and soaked up.

Top with Parmesan.

This brings back really good memories for me. Food can do that — especially when you share it with someone you love deeply. So try to remember what you ate on a really good day, and make it for yourself and your honey when you're feeling kind of lost.

You'll feel better. Promise.


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