Posts Tagged ‘winter’

mushroom bourginon

Upon ordering roasted marrow bones and toast at an Ann Arbor restaurant recently, the waiter asked me if I was from France, or had lived in France. When I told him that I had studied there years ago, he said, “Well that explains it. Only people who have spent time in France ever order marrow bones.” “Ah, but I was a vegetarian when I lived in France!” I thus confounded his theory. (The story of how I went from eating no meat to loving marrow bones is perhaps for another day. Let’s say that bacon played a key role.)

Since I learned my way around the kitchen during the years when I was not eating meat, vegetarian cooking is my foundation. I don’t really feel like anything is “missing” from a dish if it lacks meat. That said, I had been on quite a tear lately with the heavy, meat-laden dishes: in the space of about two weeks, I had made braised short ribs, cassoulet, roast chicken, coq au vin, and a meaty lasagne. I think this is my way of battling the brutal Michigan winter: spend hours in the kitchen, tending to something steamy and comforting in the oven or on the stovetop. This has the lovely effect of filling the house with awesome smells and the belly with hearty fare. It also has the unlovely effect of fattening up both me and E.

Something had to give.

The dish I want to share with you is the best of both words: a traditional French dish, sans beef. It’s great for when you want something that will sustain you on a cold February night, but don’t have the time or will to go to the gym twice a day to pay for it.


Mushroom Bourguignon
[Modified version of the recipe from Smitten Kitchen]

2 T or more olive oil
2 T or more butter
2 pounds mushrooms (I used some portobello and button, but crimini would be nice as well)
1/2 carrot, finely diced
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup red wine
2 cups broth (veg, chicken, or beef – whatever you have on hand)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup pearl onions, peeled
Egg noodles, for serving
Sour cream and chopped chives or parsley, for garnish (optional)

Heat the one tablespoon of the olive oil and one tablespoon of butter in a medium Dutch oven or heavy sauce pan over medium-high heat. Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to do this in two batches. Sear the mushrooms until they begin to darken, about three or four minutes. Remove them from pan.

Lower the flame to medium and add the second tablespoon of olive oil. Add carrots, onions, thyme, salt and pepper into the pan and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute.

Add the wine to the pot, scraping any stuck bits off the bottom, then turn up the heat until the liquid reduces by half. Stir in the tomato paste and the broth. Add the mushrooms with any juices that have collected and once the liquid has boiled, reduce the temperature so it simmers for 20 minutes, or until mushrooms are very tender. Add the pearl onions and simmer for five minutes. Combine remaining butter and the flour with a fork until combined; stir in. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 more minutes. If the sauce is too thin, continue to boil it down to reduce to the right consistency. Season to taste.

Spoon the stew over a bowl of egg noodles and sprinkle with chives or parsley; add some sour cream if you like, though I don’t think it’s all that necessary.

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Sunshine, flowers, light, please.

It’s quiet times around here at G3. I don’t know about you, but I’m in the midst of a case of winter blues that I know I will shake, but maybe not this week. Or next . . . but such is life in Ann Arbor in February. I’m really ready for the farmers’ market to be back in swing, ready to have an appetite for something other than soup or stew, ready to see green and blue and yellow instead of the requisite gray and brown and white. Ready to put away scarves and gloves and wear something else on my feet besides boots. (The news that the city council voted against everyday wines/everyday cook in favor of the public golf course for the available liquor license does not lift the spirits. Nor does the news that Leopold Brothers is closing shop and moving to Denver. Ann Arbor is becoming a little less like the place I want to live every day.)

Sigh. Inspiration, motivation: where are you? I can’t say I’m subsisting solely on ramen, but I’ve taken more than my share of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to work for lunch these days. Dinners have been straightforward, comfort-food affairs, some of which I’ve been satisfied with: linguine with clams, chicken soup with matzo balls, some mussels with fennel, cream and white wine. Last week I made spaghetti with a very nice bolognese for my dear friend Claire, who seems still to live in Ann Arbor, but her jet-setting ways are making me doubt it. But nothing is really wowing me right now, and why should I share all that just-so-so-ness with you all here?

There are signs this is starting to turn around. I think I need to spend more Saturdays like the one just passed — enjoying brunch at a friend’s house, while we compared methods for poaching eggs, concocted plans for dinner parties, and reminisced about our favorite spots in New York and Brooklyn. He let me in on an idea for a cocktail he’s inventing, and I happily sat and listened and photographed. Slowly, inspiration came into view:

Pots of homemade jam.

Ginger scones.


Eggs benedict – my favorite brunch dish in the world.


More sunshine, more light. It’s on its way.


May you find inspiration, too.

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