When the "Your Best Mushrooms" theme was announced a while ago, the thought of a mushroom mousse kept flitting through my head. After a quick search on the internet, I found Amanda Cohen’s recipe for Portobello Mousse with Cherries and Fennel Compote, Grilled Portobello Mushrooms, and Truffled Crostini (http://tinyurl.com/3wjx76f). Amanda Cohen is the chef/owner of Dirt Candy, a vegetarian restaurant in NYC. (Amanda’s Dirt Candy blog is a really fun read, btw.)
But the recipe didn’t indicate if the mushrooms are to be cooked, or left raw. So I searched some more and found Sarah Simmons' blog post (http://tinyurl.com/3gxrpcv) where she describes her obsession with the Dirt Candy Portobello Mousse and how she set out to recreate it. A little too daunting for my level of culinary expertise, I thought I’d just tackle the mousse part and see what I could adapt from Amanda’s sumptuous dish.
I tested so many versions…with and without gelatin, with and without cheese and aromatics, in the blender (which I hate washing) and in the food processor. But in the end, my favorite was this one, with its pure earthy mushroom-y aroma and taste, and smooth, mousse-like texture achieved with the mini-chopper.
Here, I've dressed up the mousse with a drizzle of aceto balsamico tradizionale di Modena and some parsley oil. The parsley oil is just slightly adapted from Bon Appétit’s recipe for Scallop and Bacon Chowder from Dec. ’01. It’s delicious. —mrslarkin
Test Kitchen Notes
At our next dinner party, I'm going to perform a little experiment on my carnivorous friends: set out a nice pâté alongside this mushroom mousse and see which disappears faster. My bet: The fungi. This mousse has a mellow, thoroughly mushroomy flavor and cloud-like texture -- plus, it takes only a few minutes and one pan to prepare. I would argue that the balsamic reduction should not be optional; it couldn't be easier to prepare, and the sweet, sharp acidity is a welcome counterpoint to the creamy mousse. - MeghanVK —MeghanVK
1 hour 30 minutes
FOR THE BALSAMIC REDUCTION (optional):
balsamic vinegar (If you have Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena, you can skip the step of reducing the balsamic vinegar)
FOR THE PARSLEY OIL (optional):
fresh Italian parsley leaves (flat leaf), thick stems removed and discarded (they’re bitter)
FOR THE BALSAMIC REDUCTION, in a small saucepan, reduce 1 cup balsamic vinegar over medium heat until thick and syrupy. Set aside to cool.
FOR THE PARSLEY OIL, combine the parsley leaves, olive oil and salt in a blender and puree until very smooth. Taste for salt. Pour into a lidded jar and store in the refrigerator. To use, bring to room temp, and stir. I don’t strain the oil. I like the rustic look of the teeny tiny pieces of parsley.
FOR THE MUSHROOM MOUSSE, in a medium saucepan, heat 1½ tablespoons butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and toss until fully coated with the melted butter. Add salt to taste. Cook the mushrooms for about 5 minutes, stirring every now and then. They’ll begin to exude their liquid, and then start to brown and crisp up a bit. Turn out into the bowl of a mini chopper or mini food processor when done.
In the same saucepan, melt one tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until soft and translucent, and just beginning to brown. Stir in the cream. Reduce heat to low. Bring to a boil and remove from heat.
Add the onion mixture to the mushrooms in the mini chopper. Season with salt and pepper and puree until very smooth. Taste for salt and pepper, and adjust seasonings if desired. Pour into a 4-ounce ramekin. Serve warm.
Serve on crostini, crispy toast crusts, pita chips, or just dolloped on a demitasse spoon, drizzled with balsamic syrup (or Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena) and parsley oil. I like the mousse best when it’s warm or at room temperature.