Russ Parsons' Southern Comfort Soup
Mary Ellen Rae's Pear and Cardamom Upside-Down Cake

Russ Parsons' Mushroom Hash


Well, it's just a veritable Russ Parsons lovefest around here, isn't it? I swear this isn't on purpose, at least not consciously (and yes, it might have something to do with the fact that I think his recipes are more reliable, but I realize I haven't tested enough from the other writers to really make this a waterproof statement). His recipes in the LA Times just keep jumping out at me. Sometimes the results are just okay, but sometimes they're stellar, like with this mushroom hash. Oh oh, is it good. I ate some off my plate last night and then ended up standing at the stove, munching on the hash directly from the frying pan, until I put the rest in a Tupperware for lunch today.

I read Parsons' article about mushrooms on Wednesday, then popped out to the farmer's market on my break, where I found a little Japanese man selling mushrooms from wire baskets. Communicating with him proved somewhat difficult as his English was restricted to only a few words, most of which I didn't really understand. But there was a lot of smiling and pointing and more smiling, and five dollars later, I was clutching two paper bags filled with small white mushrooms, one large portobello, and a few ounces of hen-of-the-woods.

At home, I chopped up the mushrooms into small pieces, after brushing off the dirt gently with a moist towel.
Then I melted some butter in a pan and when it started to turn nutty brown, I added the mushrooms, covered the pan and let them cook for a few minutes.
When I uncovered the pan, the mushrooms had browned nicely and a delicious roasty scent filled the air. I added chopped garlic and parsley to the pan and cooked the mushrooms a bit longer, then transferred them to a bowl, while I poured white wine into the hot pan. That reduced for a bit before I added a splash of heavy cream and fresh thyme leaves.
The reserved mushrooms went back into the pan and were tossed about with the sauce. I cubed up several new red potatoes and steamed them (by the way, I hadn't steamed potatoes before and I think I might not ever prepare them any other way again. So fast! So easy!) until they were tender, then added them immediately to the pan with the mushrooms. With Sherry vinegar sprinkled on top and some nice fat flakes of Maldon salt strewn about, the dish was ready to go.
Oh, it was good.

But wait. I have a few points to make. Personally, when I make this again it will be with less potatoes and more mushrooms. And if you're wondering how to serve this, I'd say as a side dish, or if you wanted, with a poached egg on top for dinner. But that might be overkill. Because the flavor is just so perfect - just enough herbs, a tiny hint of cream and butter (I left out the final pat of butter meant to be swirled in, by accident, but when I realized my mistake I also decided I liked it with less butter), a nice bite from the vinegar and garlic and salt - you don't really need to add anything else to it. I can't wait for lunch.

Mushroom Hash
Serves 6

1 pound mixed mushrooms (portabello, cremini, maitake, etc)
3 tablespoons butter, divided
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced parsley
1/2 cup white wine
6 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 1/2 pounds mixed small potatoes (fingerlings, boilers, etc)
1/2 teaspoon sherry vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Wipe the mushrooms clean, trim any hard stems and cut them into roughly almond-size pieces. Try to use a mixture of sizes of mushrooms so you get a diversity of shapes. The small ones can be left whole, those that are a little bigger can be cut in half, and so on.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat until the foam has subsided and the butter turns a light hazelnut color. Add the mushrooms, sprinkle with half a teaspoon of salt, cover tightly and cook, tossing occasionally until the mushrooms begin to glisten and give up their moisture, about 3 minutes. Remove the cover, add the garlic and the parsley, raise the heat to high and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the mushrooms are richly aromatic and soft but not, but not flaccid, about 3 minutes.

3. Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl. Add the white wine to the skillet. Cook over high heat until it reduces to a syrup, about 2 minutes. Strip the leaves from the thyme between your thumbnail and finger and add them to the syrup along with the cream. Cook, stirring to incorporate into a smooth liquid. Add the mushrooms back to the sauce, toss to coat well and set aside.

4. Cut the potatoes into half-inch and steam in a tightly covered pot over rapidly boiling water until they are just tender, about 15 minutes.

5. Warm the mushroom mixture over medium heat and add the potatoes as soon as they are done. Do not let the potatoes cool or they won't absorb the flavors. Add the sherry vinegar and stir everything together. Adjust the salt seasoning and season with a grinding of fresh black pepper. The dish can be prepared to this point up to 1 hour in advance.

6. Before serving, warm the mixture over medium-high heat, add the remaining tablespoon of  butter and stir to mix well.