Roasted mushrooms & potatoes with sage & white pepper

Roasted potatoes and mushrooms

This year Malcolm and I read The Trumpet of the Swan. I hadn’t read it since I was little, and I didn’t remember it in great detail, but I knew I’d liked it. It’s such an odd little story. Nature-guide-worthy details of flora and fauna mix with flights of fancy in a lovely, matter-of-fact style, as if a swan’s ability to read, and play a trumpet, and be a good friend, are exactly the qualities we would expect him to have. As we got towards the end, there was a passage that was so surprising, and beautiful and unlikely, that it made me ridiculously happy. We’re given a glimpse into the thoughts of a minor character – a zoo “head man” who who only speaks a handful of times in the entire book. Nobody else gets this treatment! Sam, the young human hero of the story is describing how his friend, Louis the swan, would die if he were kept in captivity.

“The head man closed his eyes. He was thinking of little lakes deep in the woods, of the color of bulrushes of the sounds of night and the chorus of frogs. He was thinking of swans’ nests, and eggs, and the hatching of eggs, and the cygnets following their father in single file. He was thinking of dreams he had had as a young man.”

And later, when Sam tells him about money Louis is saving to pay for his trumpet, we see inside the Head Man’s mind again.

“The subject of money seemed to interest the Head Man greatly. He thought how pleasant it would be not to have any more use for money. He leaned back in his chair. … ‘When it comes to money,’ he said, ‘birds have it easier than men do…A bird doesn’t have to go to a supermarket and buy a dozen eggs and a pound of butter and two rolls of paper towels and a TV dinner and a can of Ajax and a can of tomato juice and a pound and a half of ground round steak and a can of sliced peaches and two quarts of fat-free milk and a bottle of stuffed olives. A bird doesn’t have to pay rent on a house, or interest on a mortgage. A bird doesn’t insure its life with an insurance company and then have to pay premiums on the policy. A bird doesn’t own a car and buy gas and oil and pay for repairs on the car and take the car to a car wash and pay to get it washed. Animals and birds are lucky. They don’t keep acquiring things, the way men do. You can teach a monkey to drive a motorcycle, but I have never known a monkey to go out and buy a motorcycle.'”

It just kills me!! The details of shopping list, and the way it all comes out in a mad, comma-less rush. I’ve only known the head man for about a paragraph, and he disappears from the story soon after, but I feel like I know him, and I’d feel like I’d like him.

I had such a rotten weekend of work. Discouraging, depressing, not-at-all financially rewarding. I wish money didn’t matter. I wish I could work hard on all of the things I love, and the deeply important projects we’re developing here at The Ordinary, and get by like that. Sigh.

Anyway! When I came home from work one night, I felt like making this fast, delicious, comforting, flavorful dish. We had it as a side dish with our summer tart. I love the idea of potatoes and shallots together – they seem like such earthy, pan-seasonal friends. And of course roasted mushrooms are one of my favorite things in the world. The combination has a lovely, savory meat-and-potatoes feel about it. I cut the potatoes quite small, and left the mushrooms quite big, so they’d cook at the same rate, and because I liked the crispy potatoes with the juicy mushrooms.

Here’s Blackalicious with Swan Lake. I love this song! It has samples of about 500 different versions of People Make the World Go Round.

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Paté en croute – vegetarian style

Pate en croute

This dish is so fancy! How fancy is it? Well, you’ve got your paté, and you’ve got your croute. That’s fancy! Can’t you just hear Mrs. Patmore saying, “Daisy, stop your daydreaming, and get this up to the grand dining room before Lady Mary collapses in her corset!” Of course, in that scenario, this would probably be stuffed with pheasants. Not here, my friend!

Break it down, and this isn’t hoity toity at all. It’s two of my favorite flavors together – roasted mushrooms & french lentils – mixed with ground almonds, ground hazelnuts, a bit of cheese and some herbs. And all wrapped in a peppery, flaky crust. Now doesn’t that sound good? And healthy? This isn’t hard to make, and most of the components can be made ahead and saved until you’re good and ready for them. I believe there are pans devoted to the preparation of patés. I don’t have one of those! I do have a nice loaf pan from ikea. It’s a little longer and thinner than your average loaf pan. In truth, any such loaf pan would do. This serves quite a few people, and it does seem special, so it would make a nice dinner party meal. But we had a nice weeknight dinner of it- thick slices of this concoction, roasted rosemary potatoes and a big salad.

Here’s Fancy Pants, by Count Basie and his orchestra.
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mushroom walnut dumplings

mushroom walnut dumplings

Inside: Roasted mushrooms, walnuts, parsley and cheese. Outside: a biscuit-like crust made with whole wheat flour, toasted oats, rosemary, black pepper and buttermilk. I called these dumplings because of their shape, but it might be more accurate to call them stuffed biscuits. They’re not soft and flaky, like anything made with paté brisée. They’re a little heartier-tasting, so they’re nice with soup or something saucy. Or even a sauce! Like the herbed walnut sauce, perhaps. Each bite has subtle flavors of baked rosemary and black pepper, and you can pick them up and eat them with your hands! Always a bonus.

Here’s Big Joe Williams with King Biscuit Stomp
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Eggplant Wellington

Eggplant Wellington

In my mind, beef wellington is the great uncle of savory pastries. The one with the muttonchop whiskers and the velvet smoking jacket, sipping on a brandy. As it happens, this great uncle doesn’t go quite as far back in the family history as you might think. As they tell us over at Historical Foods

The culinary history of Beef Wellington is a bit of a mystery, with far too many theories, (and all of them lacking in any hard evidence) to put this dish any earlier than the 20th Century – it certainly does not appear in any Victorian recipe books. So ignoring for now the myths surrounding this recipe we should instead concentrate on making it.

Indeed we should! For my vegetarian version, I decided to wrap the pastry around eggplant anyone could love (marinated, breaded, baked), I topped it with roasted mushrooms and shallots sprinkled with sherry, and I put a layer of sautéed chard in the middle. It turned out very well indeed! Tasty, and substantial, but not overly heavy considering it’s really only vegetables inside. (And a few slices of cheese!)

It’s not a last-minute meal – it did take a bit of time because there are a few parts to contend with, but most of them could be made earlier in the day, or even the day before. And if you buy your puff pastry, you’d cut down even more time. (I’d be more likely to cheat and use a quick paté brisée before I’d buy frozen puff pastry, though.) It’s very fun to make, too – and a delight to take out of the oven. I felt so proud of myself! It makes a nice crowed-pleasing meal for a special occasion. Like Christmas dinner!

We ate it with a lovely tomato & port wine sauce that went perfectly with all the flavors and textures.

If you liked this, you might like to also try my Portobello Wellington.

If you’d like to compare this to genuine beef wellington, check out Felicity Cloake’s article in the Guardian.

Here’s Michael Coleman, a fiddler active in the 20s, playing Wellington Reels.
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Vegetarian jerk patties … with pigeon peas!!

vegetarian jerk patties

Pigeon peas are delicious! They’re nice because they have a subtle, distinctive flavor, and because they retain their shape and texture, even when cooked. And I just read on wikipedia that pigeon peas make a well-balanced human food! Sounds tasty, doesn’t it?

Jerk spice is a Jamaican blend of spices that is most commonly rubbed onto meat before cooking. It consists principally of Allspice, thyme, and hot scotch bonnet peppers. An unlikely mix, but one that is quite delicious! I used this spice to flavor a filling for a vegetarian version of jamaican meat patties – a pastry with a curried crust and a spiced-meat interior. Our meat-free version combines spicy, intriguing flavors in a crispy yellow crust!

This recipe for preparing the peas also goes well with rice (no crust!), if you add some water and cook till they get nice and brothy.

And while you’re waiting for your jerk patties to cook, you can do the Cool Jerk with the Capitols. What a song!
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