Sunday, June 25, 2017

Recipe of the Month: Roasted Mushroom Salad (plus bonus taters)

This Friday, while deciding what to make for dinner, Brian took note of three cogent facts:
  1. We had some mushrooms in the fridge that needed to get used pretty soon.
  2. We also had plenty of lettuce out in the garden (so far, the one crop we have that's doing well).
  3. I still needed a Recipe of the Month for June to put on this blog.
Putting those items together, he searched the Internet for recipes that included both mushrooms and lettuce, and he found this recipe for Roasted Mushroom and Romaine Salad on the Cookin Canuck website. He had to modify it slightly, since the lettuce in our garden was Boston lettuce rather than Romaine, and the mushrooms we had were white button mushrooms rather than creminis. (Side note: did you know these are actually the same species, Agaricus bisporus? The only difference between them is that creminis are older before they're harvested. Leave them on the ground still longer, and they grow up to become portobello mushrooms. So the only reason portobello mushrooms cost so much more is that it takes longer to grow them. Well, I thought it was interesting.)

Anyway, we figured these changes wouldn't make too big a difference. We both like Boston (butterhead) lettuce better than Romaine anyway, and surely any kind of mushrooms sautéed with olive oil, garlic, and fresh rosemary could only be good. And since we liked all the other flavors in the salad as well—balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, and pecans—putting them all together had to be a guaranteed winner, right?

Well, not really. It only took us a few bites of this salad to conclude that, while all the ingredients of it were good individually, they just didn't play together well. In my opinion, it was the juxtaposition of the mushrooms and the lettuce that didn't work. Adding a hot, cooked ingredient over top of fresh greens wasn't the problem; we'd tried that before with this Warm Chick Pea Salad with Arugula, and we quite liked the combination. It was just the flavor of the seasoned mushrooms that didn't seem to combine well with the salad and dressing. We probably would have enjoyed either the dressed greens or the mushrooms by themselves (or possibly as an accompaniment to pasta or polenta), but the two together weren't satisfying. We managed to finish off the dish, but we felt no interest in trying it again.

Fortunately, one thing saved the dinner from being a total bust. Rather than just slice some bread to accompany the salad, Brian decided to fix some potatoes. And since he was using rosemary on the mushrooms, he thought it would make sense to put some on the potatoes as well, along with a little olive oil and parmesan. And these turned out to be not just good, but fantastic. Roasted alongside the mushrooms in a 450-degree oven, they cooked up crisp on the outside, tender on the inside, and full of flavor. Brian used a pound and a half of potatoes, and we ate up most of them at dinner time and then kept going back to the fridge all evening long to sneak pieces of the leftovers. Even cold, they were still tasty.

So, even if the official Recipe of the Month was a disappointment, we still have one new dish that we'll definitely be making again. If you want to do the same, here's the very simple recipe:

Cut 1 1/2 pounds baking potatoes into good-sized chunks. (Small potatoes can be quartered, larger ones halved and cut into thick slices.) Toss the pieces with 3 Tbsp. olive oil, 2 Tbsp parmesan, 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary, and 1 tsp. salt. Spread them out on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone liner (like the ones Brian got for Hanukkah last year) and bake in a 450-degree oven for about 40 minutes, or until they're golden and crispy. Then try not to gobble them up too fast.

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