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Mushroom Pasta Worth Remembering

It’s an adult rite of passage. We learn exactly how to pack every square inch of a hatchback as we bounce from apartment to apartment in our 20s, leaving a trail of changed addresses in our wake.

Once we stuff the last box into the car and turn in the keys, we shut the door—literally and figuratively—on that chapter, filing away our memories of everything that went on inside those walls.

We never expect to set foot inside these places again, much less watch a live feed of one of our old apartments burning to the ground in a Towering Inferno-style conflagration. Welcome to 21st century nostalgia.

I keep chuckling at all the news reports’ description of the Avalon in Edgewater, NJ as a “luxury” apartment complex.

Though the Yankees’ John Sterling has been referenced in almost every story as its most illustrious tenant, when we moved in, we only considered it luxurious in comparison to the hellish landlord situation we’d been dealing with for the past two years.

mushroom pasta
Photo: Casey Barber

To have an apartment with two(!) working toilets, zero birds living in the stove vent, and a parking space for which we didn’t have to battle with the family living downstairs? That was luxury.

Instead of lugging laundry to the coin-op machines, we got to sit on our tiny balcony and watch groundhogs frolic in the cemetery below (a cemetery whose existence made our rent so much cheaper, since apparently few others could abide it getting in the way of their Empire State Building view.)

We also ended up with a couple of next-door neighbors so terrible they almost put our former upstairs neighbors to shame.

The snarling, drunken shenanigans of Pat (loafabout alcoholic) and Cindy (lumbering shrew) haunted us so badly we considered sending them a thank-you card after we bought our house, since they were a big motivation for moving out of the Avalon and never sharing any walls with anyone ever again.

Sure, the Avalon was a cookie-cutter, some might say soulless, development. It didn’t have the charm of our 1920s-built colonial home, but it played host to meaningful life moments both large and small.

mushroom pasta
Photo: Casey Barber

We moved in as a newly engaged couple and got married while we lived there. I started cooking more seriously, trying my hand at French Laundry recipes for the first time while prepping Dan for our honeymoon dinner.

Our kitchen was the site of my first batch of homemade pierogies, and where I used to drape every available surface with fresh pappardelle strands from my new KitchenAid pasta maker attachment.

It was also while we lived in Edgewater that I started eating meat again and ended a decades-long vendetta against mushrooms. The two events weren’t consciously related, but the act of choosing to eat both allowed me to develop one of the most comforting pasta dishes in my repertoire.

mushroom pasta
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I’ve actually been making a version of this dish since our honeymoon in 2005, when I ate the most sublime bowl of mushroom pasta at Bistro Jeanty in Yountville.

Since that day, I’ve been working to recreate that perfect moment in food—this is just the first time I’ve stopped to commit quantities and procedures to paper (er, pixel).

The secret, I must confess, is adding beefiness to the mushrooms’ already-meaty essence. I skimp at nothing and add a dollop of veal demi-glace to really boost the salt and umami factor.

If you quail at the price of a jar of the good stuff, just know that it will last forever (unless your apartment burns down—too soon?) in the fridge. I’ve had mine for years. Seriously, years. But the timid among you can use beef broth, though it won’t be exactly the same.

I might never eat at Bistro Jeanty again, and that’s ok. I don’t need to go back. I can remember the pleasure of the past and content myself with this enormous bowl of mushroom pasta in front of me right here in the present.

mushroom pasta

Hearty Mushroom Pasta

Yield: 2 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

The secret to this hearty, filling mushroom pasta? Well, it's not vegetarian. Demi-glace adds richness to this comforting dish.

Ingredients

  • 2 servings homemade pasta or other fresh pasta such as pappardelle
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 pound mushrooms, stemmed, cleaned, and sliced paper-thin
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon veal demi-glace or 1/4 cup beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt for the pasta water
  • cream, creme fraiche, or sour cream (optional)
  • Maldon salt or coarse sea salt for garnish

Instructions

  1. Fill a 4- to 6-quart stockpot with water and place over medium-high heat to bring to a boil for the pasta.
  2. While the water heats up, heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in a wide sauté pan or high-sided skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.
  3. Add half the mushrooms in a single layer, stir to coat with the oil, and cook for 3-4 minutes undisturbed. Seriously, don't stir them. You want them to develop a nice brown tan.
  4. OK, now you can stir them and continue to cook for another 2 minutes or so.
  5. When the mushrooms are brown and starting to shrink, push them to the side of the pan, add the remaining oil, and the remaining half of the mushrooms. Repeat the browning process.
  6. Stir all the mushrooms together and add the shallot and garlic. Cook for another minute more, until the garlic is fragrant and the shallots are starting to soften.
  7. If you're using demi-glace, scoop 1/4 cup water out of the (close-to-boiling) pasta pot and whisk the demi-glace together with the hot water in a small bowl to dissolve.
  8. Add the demi-glace or broth to the mushrooms and stir to scrape up all the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat and set aside while you finish the pasta.
  9. When the pasta water comes to a boil, add the tablespoon of kosher salt to the water and then add the pasta. Cook for 2-3 minutes, just until the pasta is tender.
  10. Use tongs to scoop the pasta into the mushrooms. Let a little bit of pasta water drip into the mushrooms with the pasta strands to make everything a little saucier.
  11. If you have any heavy cream, creme fraiche, or sour cream on hand and want to add a spoonful to the pasta to make things a little more luxurious, no one can blame you. It's what people in luxury apartments would do.
  12. Divide the pasta between two bowls, sprinkle each with Maldon salt, and serve.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 641Total Fat: 27gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 103mgSodium: 4514mgCarbohydrates: 79gFiber: 7gSugar: 10gProtein: 25g

The nutritional information above is computer-generated and only an estimate.

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2 Comments

    1. Stroganoff, ragout de cepes, salsa di funghi, whatever you want to call it, I’m down with eating it!

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