Simplicity

ImageI thought long and hard about whether or not to write this post. Because, really, braised mushrooms? They seem far too simple, don’t they? And they’re not exactly photogenic, either. In truth, it can sometimes be hard to judge a food’s blog-worthiness, especially when the dish in question is as plain and unpretentious as the humble braised mushroom. But when I found myself making these twice in one week and then making plans to cook them again in a few more days, I knew I couldn’t keep these to myself. These mushrooms are so intensely meaty and savoury and mushroom-y. Which is really to say that they’re transcendently, mind-blowing-ly delicious.

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The key to these mushrooms, like many other good things, is low, slow heat. Caps down in a dry pan over a low flame, you could almost completely forget that you’re making braised mushrooms were it not for the intense mushroom smell that slowly and surely wafts out of the kitchen and straight up into your nostrils.

After 20 minutes or so–and, really, the longer, the better–you add a small amount of butter to the pan. As the butter foams and sizzles, thinly sliced garlic, a pinch of dried thyme and some salt are scattered over top. The whole thing is ready to eat when the garlic browns lightly and the dish becomes almost impossibly fragrant. And if the aroma of savoury, garlicky mushrooms doesn’t do it for you, just wait until you taste them. These mushrooms are, in a phrase, serious business.

Braised Mushrooms

Inspired by As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto. Serve with pork, chicken, or just about any other thing that tastes great with mushrooms.

Serves 3-4 as a side; recipe is easily multiplied

2 lbs crimini mushrooms

1 Tbsp butter

1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced

1 small pinch dried thyme

salt, to taste

1. Place a large skillet over low heat.

2. Clean the mushrooms by wiping away any dirt with a dry paper towel (avoid using water, which sucks away the mushroom flavour). Trim the stems.

3. Place the mushrooms, caps down, the the dry skillet and leave them to cook slowly for at least 10 minutes and up to 25 minutes. As the mushrooms cook, they’ll begin releasing water and shrinking slightly. When the mushrooms have reached the desired brown-ness, flip them over so the caps face up and cook an addition 5 minutes over low heat.

4. Add the butter to the pan and let it melt. Then, add the garlic and cook until lightly golden. Season with thyme and salt, toss together and serve.

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