If you’re like me, come the Christmas holiday season you’re charging around like a mad woman trying to find perfect gifts for those ‘people who have everything’ on your Christmas list. A few years ago, I was in such a state when I saw something called a mushroom kit offered by one of my Internet gardening sites. Sent it off to a friend who loves to cook and positively loves mushrooms. Later feedback was delightfully positive relating the joys of having the shiitake mushrooms constantly available and the fantastic dishes created from them. I decided I simply had to get one this year for myself and a few other friends.
First, let me share the creamy garlic pasta recipe I created to use some of my initial crop. Hosting the Decidedly Healthy or Horridly Decadent recipe blog hop I’m constantly tempted with a wealth of tasty recipes. I was inspired by Miriam of Meatless Meals for Meat Eaters and her simple creamy pasta sauce with mushrooms as my crop began to fill in. Then I saw Alex at a Moderate Life’s Alfredo Saucewhere she added cream cheese (Miriam also does cream cheese – a great addition), chicken (or veggie) broth and yogurt (or sour cream) to her sauce. I’m sure the broth brings layers of flavors. I fully intend to try both delicious recipes as published. However this weekend I played with my own sauce recipe to add a bit more garlic and some chipotle chili powder to the mushroom pasta creation. If you’re not a fan of a bit of tingling in your mouth from chile, I suggest you start the sauce with half the amount of the chipotle chili powder as noted. I used low fat milk and, as the sauce is based on roux, it remained exceedingly creamy.
Creamy Mushroom Garlic Sauce with Chili2 tablespoons olive oil eight cloves garlic (half a head) 2 cups sliced sheet type shiitake mushrooms 4 tablespoons butter 1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder 1 tablespoon flour 2 cups milk 3 to 4 tablespoons cream cheese Dash salt Dash pepper pasta cooked four servings fresh grated Parmesan cheese
Sauté the garlic in oil just to warm then add the mushrooms. Sauté until the mushrooms are cooked. Remove garlic and mushrooms to a bowl. Place the butter in the same pan and allow to melt; then stir in the chipotle chili powder and let warm for few moments to bloom the flavor, finally stir in the flour. We’re making a standard roux sauce (although you do not need to brown the butter/flour mixture) -stir the butter flour mixture to warm throughout. Stir in the milk 1/4 cup at a time (this is easiest to do with a whisk in order to have a lump free sauce). Continue stirring as it warms. Completely blend in the cream cheese then add the salt and pepper. Continue stirring until it begins to thicken; then add the mushrooms and garlic. Change utensils using either a silicone spatula or a large spoon – you want stir a little bit more to incorporate and let the flavors blend, but you don’t want to break up your mushrooms. Serve over pasta, sprinkling the parmesan cheese over the top of each serving.
With the mushroom kits, I realized they’re supplied at Fungi.com. Turns out I quite paid a bit more getting them from my gardening site. Fungi.com offers quite a variety and I’m’ determined to decide whether or not to get myself pearl oyster, espresso oyster or blue oyster as my next kit today (leaning towards espresso). Living in a tourist town as I do, I find a pack the size of a single layer fresh berries container of shiitake at my local store costs about $4.50. Given that, these kits are quite cost competitive in addition to the added bonus of having fresh mushrooms at hand. They come complete with a simple picture instruction leaflet to walk you through the process.
The box arrives complete with mushroom kit, instruction leaflet and plastic bags. With shiitake, first you refrigerate your kit for a few days. Then you take it out and soak it overnight in the bag provided. I flubbed a bit on the step as my head was with my flower bulbs and I refrigerated it for weeks. I may have gotten less of a crop because of this (always read the instructions…). After draining your mushroom patch, you move it to a perforated bag that acts as a humidity tent and mist regularly until mushrooms appear. I pick up glass plates at the $.99 store to set my kits on. They instruct to mist it three times a day although I find that, unless you’re in a very dry home or environment, morning and evening suffice to keep the moist appearance on the bag as they instruct.
I let some of mine grow quite large. I understand that Portabella are Crimini that are allowed to grow quite large. You can choose how large and meaty you want your mushrooms to be. Once the flush of mushrooms has stopped producing, you let your kit totally dry out for a few weeks and then begin again. They say you get multiple flushes from a kit. Finally, once spent you can break your kit up over a suitable medium outside and you may encourage a naturally growing area. The best place to start is at fungi.com where you can choose to get kits for growing your mushrooms in coffee grounds, plugs to drill into logs or even an environmental plus of chainsaw lubricant that contains mushroom spores so that the mushrooms can break down the stumps. My friends in the Bay Area are able to grow their kits outside. The website notes temperature requirements for each kit so that you can choose whether to find a corner in your home or outside. I’m off to order my next one and I encourage you to consider grabbing one yourself.
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