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Roasted Mushrooms with Pancetta, Ricotta Salata, and a Fried Egg

October 14, 2010

by Elizabeth

This whole “food-blogging” thing has really made me think even more about what I eat. There is the somewhat obvious realization that “if I’m too ashamed to blog this recipe because it calls for two different kinds of cream of gew soup, should I really be eating something with cream of gew soup in the first place?” Then there are the moral issues about organic produce and hormone-free meat (which I’m not going to get into here), but for me, blogging has made the most impact in regards to foods I don’t eat.

 

scary mushrooms. gross looking.

 

You know, things like mussels, and raw tomatoes, and spinach, and mushrooms. Especially mushrooms. They are covered in dirt and pretty creepy looking, and then you cook them and they become slimy, bland, superfluous pizza toppings. Right? Right. And they’re fungus. FUNGUS, people. At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself for the last 27 years. (Never mind the fact that this argument would also rule out my two favorite foods: cheese and truffle oil.)

Since I claim to know what I’m talking about in regards to food and cooking most some of the time, it’s begun to feel more and more ridiculous to have a “foods I don’t like” list, or avoid foods with textures that creep me out, or skip over entire recipes because I spot the dreaded mushrooms. So I’m trying to stop with the nonsense and like new foods. Not just try, like. So far this year I’ve added mussels, raw oysters, and tomatoes to the “like” category. I’ve realized it’s really all about how ingredients are cooked, it’s very rarely the ingredient itself (genius revelation, I know.) I might not have liked the rubbery scallops at the cheap neighborhood Italian joint 10 years ago, but I loved them at Topo Gigio in Chicago when they were actually cooked and seasoned properly. The hurdle for me is actually trying something, which I’m getting infinitely better at.

So, back to the mushrooms. After two glasses of wine, much convincing from a girlfriend, and noticing that there was more pancetta, cheese, and egg in the dish than mushrooms, I tried these mushrooms on our trip to NYC. I was shocked that I liked them. Shocked. But then I realized, I shouldn’t really be so surprised. I’ve never had a problem with the flavor of mushrooms, just the texture. But these were roasted, and after all, I like almost any vegetable best roasted because it makes them so much more intensely flavored, crispy, and amazing. Shocker – same thing happens to mushrooms. And then there is the whole meaty-flavor, umami thing about mushrooms (that I quite simply  just refused to believe), which apparently is true. The best part of this whole mushroom-liking experience is that now I can cook recipes with mushrooms! It’s like a whole new culinary world has been opened up. Lesson learned: be fearless, try the mushrooms.

Roasted Mushrooms, l’Artusi style

Since I had literally never, ever cooked with mushrooms before, it was a bit of a learning experience. Error number one: I didn’t use nearly enough mushrooms when I made this. Who knew the little fungi would shrink so much? (Um, probably everybody but me.) I’ve adjusted my recipe to what I think would be better proportions. If you can, I’d use an extra large egg to make sure there is enough yolk-y goodness to coat all the mushrooms. Stupid error number two: I forgot how salty bacon is, even the low-sodium kind. I really think pancetta would be a much, much better choice here. And mushrooms soak up a lot of flavor, so go easy on the salt.

serves 4

3/4 to 1 pound mixed wild mushrooms – cremini, shitake, oyster, etc.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
4 ounces pancetta (or bacon, but watch the salt elsewhere)
1/4 cup grated ricotta salata
2 tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano

Preheat the oven to 425˙. Gently wipe the mushrooms with a damp paper towel to clean them. Discard shitake stems, if using. Chop and slice the mushrooms into small pieces, about a 1/2 inch in size. Place on a sheet pan, and drizzle with the olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast for 20 – 25 minutes, depending on how crispy you like the mushrooms.

Meanwhile, chop the pancetta into 1/4 inch dice and fry it in a skillet. When the mushrooms are ready, add them to the skillet and toss them around for a minute or two. Remove to a serving dish using a slotted spoon, draining as much grease as possible. Top the mushrooms with the cheeses.

You should have plenty of grease left in the pan to fry the egg. If not, add a touch of olive oil. The pan should still be hot but not smoking. Crack the egg into the hot pan. Let it cook for a minute or two, until the white is almost cooked through. You can use the edge of your spatula to push the white into place and make it look a little prettier. When the egg looks almost done, flip it over carefully, and cook for just 15 seconds on the other side. You don’t want the yolk to set. Slide it out of the pan and onto the pile of mushrooms with the spatula. When you’re ready to serve (soon, hopefully), break open the yolk and toss it all around the mushrooms. You can cut the egg into small pieces too, everything should be very well mixed before serving.

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