Whatever dressing one gives to mushrooms, to whatever sauces our Apiciuses put them, they are not really good but to be sent back to the dungheap where they are born. – Denis Diderot, L'Encyclopedie (1751-1772)
|Dungheap? I think not. (It is steaming, though...)|
I guess M. Diderot was not a fan of mushrooms… L’Encyclopedie (full title, translated: The Encyclopaedia, or a Systematic Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts and Crafts) was a general encyclopedia published in France. It was meant to disseminate all the knowledge of the Enlightenment.
Not very enlightened about mushrooms, apparently. I’m assuming his quote was a personal observation and not a "scientific" entry. But appear it did, as far as I can gather.
There’s a ton of old books meant to enlighten cooks that take a swing at mushrooms.
Here’s another one:
Not being ambitious of martyrdom, even in the cause of gastronomical enterprise, especially if the instrument is to be a contemptible, rank-smelling fungus, I never eat or cook mushrooms.
- Marion Harland, Common Sense in the Household: A Manual of Practical Housewifery (1873)
Why such a hate-on for mushrooms? Luckily I do eat and cook mushrooms. I find it exceedingly strange that anyone wouldn’t. They’re amazing.
One particular variety of mushroom that’s amazing – and we use too seldom – is the shiitake. Unfortunately they're a little expensive to purchase fresh, and a little difficult to find fresh in Nova Scotia groceries anyway.
Fortunately you can purchase bags of dried shiitakes (dried Chinese mushrooms) at Asian groceries. They’re not really the same as fresh, but they do give you the benefit of being able to produce mushroom “broth” to use in your recipe.
This concoction does just that. It also uses a goodly amount of the quick chilli paste I made yesterday.
Shiitake mushrooms have a wonderful rich, almost smokey, flavour. They pair perfectly with garlic and chilli, and of course just cooked, thinly sliced, tender beef.
This is actually a very fast recipe. Much of the time is in soaking the mushrooms.
The flavours in this dish aren’t overly pronounced, but still complex. If you have an eater who’s a little afraid of “foreign” tastes, that may very well be one to try.
Beef and Shiitake Noodles
Prep: 20 min | Cook: 12 min | Serves 4
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 lb beef steak, thinly sliced
2 tbsp fresh ginger, chopped
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cups (about 16-20) sliced shiitakes (reconstituted)
1-1/2 tbsp black bean/garlic/chilli paste
3 cups bok choy, sliced
salt and pepper
Chinese wheat noodles for 4
1 cup mushroom soaking liquid
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp natural vinegar
1 tbsp cornstarch
Hint: to thinly slice beef, refrigerate overnight or partially freeze. When it’s chilled it’s easier to do.
Cook the wheat noodles according to package directions and set aside in warm, not hot, water.
Slice the beef and set aside. Soak the mushrooms in enough boiling water to cover for 15 minutes. Drain, reserving one cup of the soaking liquid. Slice the mushrooms.
Heat the oil in a wok and fry the beef until still slightly pink, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove and set aside.
Add the ginger and onion and stir fry for 2 minutes. Then add the shiitakes and fry for a further 2 minutes.
Place the beef back in the work, add the chilli paste and toss well.
Mix the sauce ingredients together and add to the wok. Then add the bok choy and cook for a further two minutes, until they soften slightly and the sauce thickens.
Drain the noodles and add to the beef mixture. Toss well to combine and serve.
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