Sunday, October 5, 2014

Pappardelle with Wild Mushroom Cream Sauce and Maple Baked Delicata Squash

Wild Mushroom Pappardelle and Maple Baked Delicata Squash

Whoa! I have two new recipes for you! Did you miss me?

How can I possibly sum up the last few months' hiatus? I can't. Life is just busy with a toddler. Not just chasing, carrying, caring-for busy, but MENTAL busy.

My tired brain is not here today to impress you with funny anecdotes or witty comments. Or maybe I will, let's see where we go with this.

We've been in one heck of a food rut during this exhaustive and picky period, and there's now a light at the end of the tunnel. That light happens to be called SCHOOL. Don't get me wrong, I love hanging out with my kid. But, this little sponge is thirsty for more than I can provide, leaving me physically and mentally drained long before dinner time. School provides me with 3 guaranteed hours of freedom to do and think whatever I want. That's what I like to tell myself, although I usually end up doing chores, or just enjoying an early shower (early meaning before 2pm) and eating my breakfast in peace.

I got real excited the first day of school and drove around doing errands. 3 hours was an eternity. The 2nd day I got to do a 90 minute yoga class. The 3rd day my house looked pristine. The following week, 3 hours started to go by quickly. A month in, I feel like I get home and have to turn back around and pick him up! And apparently he's so stimulated in school that he just can't bring himself to nap consistently anymore. So my 3 hour school plus 3 hour nap dreams have gone right out the window.  Fortunately, this is likely a phase and things will even out. We've got a few months before potty training, so maybe we can get back on the good meal bandwagon.

This week I'm to provide snacks for the 7 pre-nursery kids, so I'll try to share the menu here later. The class snack rule is organic, (mostly) whole foods that are healthy. I bet you're thinking, oh sure, that food snob would send her kid to a prissy school like that, wouldn't she? Actually it's just one of the parents, and everyone has agreed to support her initiative - otherwise it would be goldfish and crackers. My objective is to get a little more protein in there, since popcorn and apple slices have been sending my 2 year old home in a hunger tizzy of tears and terror.

Enough already with the long-winded excuses, right? I'm sure everyone's too busy to read it anyways.

Last week, my little adventure was to find a different Trader Joe's in a town I've never been to, just to see if it was a better experience than the crowded area we usually shop. The answer is no, since my cart wasn't overflowing with frozen meals, as it usually is at the more populous store. However, I was inspired by a display of dried egg pappardelle and low-priced dried wild mushrooms on the side. Mushroom pappardelle is a dish that usually catches my eye at restaurants but I never order, because I feel like the giant bowl of pasta soaks up the oil and becomes dry when you are half-way through it. I like a good, hearty, cream sauce that reminds me of popular dishes in Germany around Oktoberfest time when the best mushrooms are abundant.

In summoning memories of brauhaus dishes and crisp fall air, I happened to come up with a really nice creamy pasta dish. Personally, I like to stay away from all kinds of mainstream button and cremini mushrooms, so I think the choice of porcini, oyster, shiitake is a nice combo with cream. They are milder, gentler, earthier mushrooms. I used pecorino romano cheese also, more because parmigiano was too expensive this week, but it has a nice tart flavor to it.

On the side, I baked another fall favorite: delicata squash. Finally found at Trader Joe's! It's been scarce this year in the stores. I like this one because you don't have to peel it (I hate peeling squash it sucks), and it's almost always sweet when baked - where acorn and butternut are very hit or miss. Acorn squash have been particularly crappy and watery this year, even locally. I threw some maple syrup over the delicata, along with ginger and nutmeg, as I wanted it to contrast the creamy, garlicky, richness of the sauce. It would make a really fantastic festive holiday dish, too.

Hopefully I find a little time this fall to start making interesting food again. October is usually an extra inspiring month for me, being a Libra. We shall see what it brings!

PAPPARDELLE WITH WILD MUSHROOM CREAM SAUCE
Approx 4 servings 

8oz pappardelle pasta

3 T butter
3 T olive oil
½ C shallots, sliced into thin rings
1 T (2 cloves) garlic, minced
8 oz fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps sliced
1 oz dried wild or porcini mushrooms
1 C heavy cream or whipping cream
1 C Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
1 T dried parsley flakes
Salt
Pepper

1. Rinse dried mushrooms thoroughly in cool water bath. Pour hottest tap water over them to cover (about 2 Cups). Soak for 20 minutes. Remove mushrooms, and chop. Reserve soaking water, you will need about ½ Cup for the sauce.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.  Wait to add the pasta to the water until the mushrooms are cooking in the pan, in the next step. You will want the pasta just undercooked, al dente, about 2 minutes less than total cooking time.

3. Heat butter and olive oil over med-high heat in a deep skillet. Sauté shallots until tender, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Stir in fresh mushrooms, cooking about 3 minutes, and add the soaked dried mushrooms. Cook another 2-3 minutes and add cream and ½ C of mushroom liquid.

4. Reduce heat to low and simmer the sauce, stirring frequently. Cook 3 minutes and stir in the cheese. Continue to simmer over low heat and stir. Add parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Add a ladle of pasta water (1/4 C)  to the sauce and stir in. Drain the pasta and add to the simmering sauce pan. Fold together gently for about 2 minutes before removing from heat.



MAPLE BAKED DELICATA SQUASH
4-6 servings


2 medium (6-8” long) delicata squash, halved lengthwise, seeds and pulp removed, cut into ¼” slices. Doesn’t need to be peeled, but you can if you like.

3 T Extra virgin olive oil
½ C Maple syrup
1 tsp Ginger powder
½ tsp Nutmeg, freshly grated
1 tsp Sea salt
½ tsp Black Pepper

Heat oven to 400F.

Toss squash slices by hand with oil, syrup, ginger, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Follow the measurements, or just use your best judgement and eyeball it depending on how much squash you have.

Place in a large glass baking dish and bake 30-40 minutes, checking often. Cooking time with depend on how big your baking dish and how deep the layers of squash are. Toss and turn them every 15 minutes for even cooking. The squash will look a wet dark orange and tender when done.


*I baked mine about 30 minutes at 400 and kept it warm at 275 for another 20 while dinner cooked.




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