Wednesday, May 17, 2006

~May Cooking With Washington Wines~

This is the time of year when we would wander up to our recreational property in the Blue Mountains and tend to our "garden" of mushrooms. These delectable little fungus-among-us could be found anywhere around the 10 acres. We had our favorite spots for hunting, but once in awhile we would be surprised to locate a new spot every mushroom season. We pulled out a lot of the cauliflower shaped mushrooms, but we struck gold when we could harvest some of the prized morels (that is if the "professional pickers" weren't trespassing and beat us to them).

A couple of years ago, exactly at this time, myself and other students at the Institute of Viticulture and Enology went mushroom hunting and it was as easy as outside of our classroom windows. The school had just laid untreated cedar bark around the building and those delicious tiny spores of mushroom goodness found it's way into the bark. I took a handful home one afternoon and sauteed them with butter - a delicious lunch.

If you like mushrooms as much as I do, you will love this woodsy and timely dish, with its deep rich flavors. It is wonderful over steaks, cheeseburgers, and even use as a dip with crostini. Hey, my favorite? Over garlic mashed potatoes. Pair this dish with the same Walla Walla Valley Merlot that you have chosen to cook with. You might need two bottles - one for the recipe and one for the cook. With the addition of one of our local Merlots, you really have an authentic dish of the Northwest.

Wild Mushroom Ragout
3 tablespoons butter
1 garlic clove (finely chopped)
4 large shallots, thinly sliced
2 cups of wild mushrooms (morels if you can find them or you may vary on mushrooms that are available such as shitake, chanterelle, oyster, etc)
1 cup quartered button and/or cremini mushrooms
1/3 cup Chinese dried black mushrooms, (soak in warm water for about 20 minutes to soften) stemmed and quartered
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup (or a skoosh more) of your favorite Walla Walla Valley Merlot (and one full glass of Merlot for the cook to sip on)
1 cup chicken stock or canned broth (you may use vegetable broth to keep it vegetarian).
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 Tbsp of dried thyme

Heat a saucepan over medium heat and add a tablespoon of butter until melted (careful, don't burn). Add garlic and shallots and saute until soft (about 3-5 minutes). Add all of the mushrooms and saute again for about 8-10 minutes until soft. Season with salt and pepper.

Add your favorite Walla Walla Valley Merlot, stir and cook until the wine is reduced by half (about five minutes). Add stock, soy sauce, and thyme and again simmer until this mixture is reduced by half (about 25-30 minutes). Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Correct the seasonings to your taste. Ready to serve over that side of hot garlic mashers or layered on top of that cheeseburger you have on the grill. Sante!

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