Before I started working at Special Delivery it had been many years since I had stood behind a hot stove preparing food for someone I did not know and likely would never meet. Those days, back in the 70s and 80s, I was no doubt a far less skilled cook than I am today. And yet, I could not help wonder how what I prepare might relate to the food I would serve in some mythical restaurant that (I promise you, Nancy) will never happen. The notion, though, led to the idea for this and a related series of articles focusing on the dishes I am developing for Special Delivery and slightly more elegant versions thereof.
Usually, at the conclusion of a Friday’s deliveries, I will speak with Ruth about what she is planning for the following week. The idea is to coordinate what I am doing with what is being prepared for the general client population. Last week, her answer was “Roast Chicken with a Dijon Gravy” followed by a pause, after which she asked: “Michael, would you mind doing a sauce for about 20?” There were a number of clients who could not take the high fructose corn syrup that was one of the primary ingredients in the gravy.
“Sure,” I said. “I can do a Dijon reduction with a tomato-based vegetable stock and white wine. And we can do the vegetarian version with seared Portobello mushrooms.”
But there was no protein in there – an important consideration for vegetarians. I started to thinking about what I could do to add protein. I had been reading the NOMA cookbook, a manifesto by René Redzepi, Chef and creator of NOMA, the restaurant that has inherited El Bulli’s theoretical “Best Restaurant in the World” laurels. In particular, what was brought to mine was the combination of pan roasted mushrooms and a sous-vide poached egg. I was off to the races.
For the version at home (pictured above), I included some wonderful lacinto kale from our JR Organics CSA basket and substituted wild rice for quinoa (because there was no quinoa in the house). For the version at Special Delivery I reduced the sauce as specified in the recipe below rather than using as much brown sugar to balance the mustard. Either works well, but at Special Delivery I was concerned about the diabetic clients.
Seared Portobello Mushrooms with Lacinto Kale, Quinoa, Poached Egg and Mustard Reduction Sauce
For the Mustard Reduction Sauce:
- 1 onion, rough chop
- 1 carrot, rough chop
- 1 bulb fennel, rough chop
- 8 tomatoes, quartered
- 4-5 button mushrooms, cut in half
- 4 cups water
- 2 shallots minced
- ½ teaspoon grapeseed or canola oil
- 2 cups white wine
- ½ cup Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
For the Quinoa:
- 1 cup quinoa
- 2 cup water
For the Poached Egg:
- 4 eggs
- Water to cover
For the Portobello Mushrooms:
- 4-5 Portobello Mushrooms (depending on the size) sliced in ¼ inch slices
- 2 tablespoons canola or grapeseed oil.
For the Lacinto Kale:
- 1 teaspoon grapeseed oil
- ½ onion, finely diced
- 1 head, lacinto kale
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
For the Garnish:
- Finishing salt
- Herb oil
1. Begin Making the Sauce. Place the vegetables on a hotel sheet in an oven preheated to 375° Fahrenheit and roast until the vegetables begin to caramelize, about half an hour. When roasted, transfer the vegetables into a sauce pan with the water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer to fully extract the flavors from the vegetables, at least half an hour.
2. Poach the Eggs. Pre-heat the Sous-Vide or other water bath to 148° Fahrenheit. Place the eggs into the sous vide bath and cook for 30 minutes. Remove the eggs from the water bath. You can poach the eggs using tradition (non-Sous-Vide methods) – as we did at Special Delivery – but the results simply are not as good.
3. Cook the Quinoa. Rinse the quinoa in several changes of water. Bring the 2 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt to a boil and add the quinoa. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and continue to cook until all water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Remove the quinoa from the heat and allow to cool uncovered for 15 minutes.
4. Finish Making the Sauce: Add the minced shallots and grapeseed oil to a sauce pan and sweat for 2 to 3 minutes. Strain the liquid from the solids into the sauce pan, combine with the white wine and reduce by half. When reduced, add the Dijon mustard and brown sugar. Adjust the flavors to taste by adding salt, brown sugar or further reduction (or by adding a splash of vinegar).
5. Sear the Portobello Mushrooms. Bring the grapeseed oil to high heat in a large sauté pan over a high flame. Add the thickly sliced mushrooms and sauté on one side for two to three minutes, just until they have caramelized. Turn the mushrooms over and caramelize the other side – again for two to three minutes – when they will ever-so-slightly begun to change shape.
6. Cook the Kale. Add the grapeseed oil and onion to a sauté pan over medium heat for two to three minutes. Add the kale and cook just long enough for the kale to wilt; about another two to three minutes.
7. Plate the Dish. Serve a small pile of the quinoa (or other grain) in the middle of the plate. On one side, fan the Portobello mushroom slices. On the other side, build an attractive mound of the kale. Serve the poached egg on top and drizzle the plate and the mushrooms (and, if you like, the egg) with the Mustard reduction sauce. Garnish the egg with finishing salt.