Comfort Food

Comfort Food

Mushrooms Make Everything Better!

The use of mushrooms in the 1950s middle-class home kitchens makes my mouth water!  The list of recipes is a long one and includes Beef Stroganoff, Salisbury Steak, Tuna Noodle Casserole, Chicken ala King  Chopped steak recipes of that time call for adding lots of ingredients like onions and garlic … to good beef that has been hand-chopped (not just ground beef as we know it today).  Those hearty steaks were topped with sliced mushrooms and onions braised in butter.  In many places, this is still a popular entrée!  The breakfast tables of the 1950s were frequently laid with creamed eggs and mushrooms, and if you were upper middle-class, you might have had a chaffing dish to hold that delightful covering for toast corners or puff pastry shells.

French restaurant menus from the earliest part of the century included many recipes for preparing mushrooms.  The mushroom itself was the focus.  They were not used as additions to recipes.  One of great interest to me is all about cooking mushrooms under a glass bell.   Imagine the elegance of this:  Rounds of toast were covered with a mound of a few stemmed mushrooms.  The mushrooms were basted with melted butter, sprinkled with salt and pepper.  A couple Tablespoons of sweet cream were added to each toast/mound.  All was covered with the bell, baked for about twenty minutes, then sent to the table.  The glass bell was a part of the presentation, but when it was lifted at the table … the aroma was wonderful!  That is my kind of food.

Other indulgent French recipes from the early 1900s include chopped mushrooms cooked with bone marrow and spread on toast tips … big mushrooms filled with an oyster and covered with bechamel sauce … and mushroom caps stuffed with all kinds of delightful ingredients.

Mushrooms were found at the beginning of time.  Historians know that prehistoric people ate fungus and mushrooms.  Mushrooms were foraged and easily became a part of their meals.  Ancient Romans enjoyed the taste of mushrooms and actually grew them.  In the 16th century, mushrooms were cultivated in France.   Text in explains that many varieties of mushrooms were eaten by common people in Switzerland, Germany and Austria … but in Greece and Rome, mushrooms were expensive and only available to the elite.  Chinese and Japanese people grew shitake mushrooms. 

Here in my Southern Illinois home, now is the season to forage for morel mushrooms. Folks hit the woodlands and look in some well-hidden places for these delicious fungi!  Newspapers host competitions to see who can get the most or the biggest.   It delights me to know that although mushroom cultivation reached America by the 1890s … that was also the time that mushrooms became a fad.   Mushroom clubs emerged along with illustrated literature educating amateur foragers … and mushroom hunting was fun!

I am such a fan of mushrooms.  I love them raw in a spinach salad.  I love them breaded and fried for an appetizer.  I especially love them ‘scalded’ in butter and used as a topping for pasta or grilled steaks. No pizza is complete without mushrooms.  Mushrooms make most foods better!

The first recipe I’m sharing today is a simple lunch or supper favorite in my family.  Mushrooms in a creamy sauce, topping toast.  It is just as delicious topping biscuits or waffles!

Creamed Baby Bellas on Toast

Clean and slice 8 ounces of Baby Portabella mushrooms.  Sauté them in 2 Tablespoons of butter and 1 Tablespoon of olive oil. The addition of olive oil will keep the butter from burning.  I’ve used the word ‘sauté’, but I like to scald the mushrooms first, so they caramelize.  

Begin with high heat, toss in the mushrooms and stir them a bit.  Then … turn down the temperature and let them finish by sautéing.  When the mushrooms are soft, remove them from the skillet.   To make the cream sauce, add 2 more Tablespoons of butter to the skillet and stir in 2 Tablespoons of flour to make a light roux.  Let the flour cook for a minute, then add 2 ups of Half and Half.  Cook the sauce until it is thick.  Season it with salt, pepper and a grind of nutmeg.  Add the mushrooms back in and serve over toast, biscuits or waffles.  Delicious!   

Double this recipe if you are feeding more than 2 people.  Of course, any mushroom can be used in this recipe. 

Chicken Chardonnay with Mushrooms

6 chicken tenders
1 egg plus little water for egg wash
1 cup of flour
Salt and pepper to season
½ teaspoon onion powder
Olive oil for frying

Make an egg wash with the egg and a little water.  Use a table fork and whip the combination a little.  Season the flour with salt, pepper and onion powder.  Dip the chicken pieces into the egg wash and then into the flour.  Fry in olive or canola oil until they are nicely browned and done (internal temp of 165 degrees)

When you remove the chicken from the skillet, add 4 – 8 ounces of cleaned and sliced mushrooms.  I used a mixture of several kinds the last time I made this.  Let the mushrooms cook gently in the remaining oil in the skillet.  Add a splash of your favorite chardonnay to the skillet … just so the mushrooms absorb a little of the flavor.  Remove the mushrooms and prepare to make the creamy sauce.

Add 3 Tablespoons of butter to the skillet and let it melt.  Add 1 cup of parmesan cheese (the kind out of the green box) and stir it until it begins to sizzle.  Pour in 2 cups of Half and Half and 1 cup of chardonnay.  Whisk the ingredients to make it smooth and let the sauce cook until it begins to thicken.  Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper.   It should thicken without any addition of flour … but if it doesn’t you can add a little bit of a slurry made with corn starch mixed with cold Half and Half.  The corn starch slurry will not make lumps!

When the sauce is thick, pour it over the chicken and top everything with those delicious mushrooms.  Sometimes I add a handful of frozen peas to this sauce.  You can also add a cup of chopped fresh spinach or kale.  I also spritz the chicken with a little lemon juice before I sauce it.  That adds a layer of flavor to this very ‘rich’ dish!

How to Make Air Fried Mushrooms!

I love fried mushrooms, but I do my best to stay away from too much real fried food.  These are air fried and couldn't be easier!

Slice fresh mushrooms and dip them in egg wash. Dredge lightly in flour. Place in the basket of the air fryer and spritz with a tiny bit of olive oil.  Fry them at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

They are delicious! They are tender inside but crispy on the outside with nearly no amount of oil used.

This article is a part of my 2020 Vintage Vegetable project.  If you’d like to see similar articles, just click the Vintage Vegetables menu tab.  I’ll also be sharing with a couple blog parties, so check my sidebar and visit.

Stay safe … and stay well.

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