Friday, April 26, 2013

Tagliatelle with Wild Mushroom & Brandy Cream Sauce

Any recipe that features wild mushrooms gets my attention, and especially if they're combined with cream and a little brandy, cognac or Marsala, it becomes a rich and powerful flavour combination that can be the foundation for a host of fabulous dishes. Delicious served over any grilled meat or tossed with pasta, a fine Wild Mushroom & Brandy Cream Sauce is an indispensable part of many cooks culinary arsenal. An earthy combination of assorted wild mushrooms makes the sauce richer and more flavourful - varieties like shiitake, morelles, cremini, oyster, chanterelles, enoki or even shimeji - my new discovery.

Shimeji are attractive speckled brown capped mushrooms, 
that are similar to enokii mushrooms both in texture and flavour

Shimeji mushrooms are the third most popular mushroom in Japan, after shiitake and enoki. They're also called 'beech mushrooms' because they often grow on fallen beech trees, and with a white base and cracked, speckled brown caps, shimeji are attractive little mushrooms. Surprisingly they have no aroma, but once cooked, they have a smooth and crunchy texture like enoki, with a buttery and nutty flavour, and together with some shiitake and cremini mushrooms, became the foundation of my Wild Mushroom Tagliatelle.

A French shallot finely diced and sautéed in butter and olive oil,  
and because it's made with love, it's shaped like a heart!

The sauce starts with minced shallots sautéed in a live butter and olive oil until they become fragrant and translucent. Finely sliced shiitake and cremini mushrooms are then added and seasoned with salt and pepper. Once they've browned sufficiently, the shimeji are added along with some fresh thyme.

Sliced cremini and shiitake mushrooms are added to the shallots

Then shimeji mushrooms and fresh thyme are added

A little heavy cream and glug or two of brandy are added to the mixture, and allowed to reduce somewhat to produce a luscious and creamy sauce. For an extra boost of flavour and velvety creaminess, I'm almost embarrassed to say, I added a few tablespoons of Boursin cheese, with its subtle blend of aromatic garlic, fragrant parsley and chives, it's the original flavour created by François Boursin fifty years ago, and remains Boursin's most popular flavour.

Rich, creamy and completely addictive, 
Boursin was the secret ingredient in my Wild Mushroom Tagliatelle

Add some cream and brandy for fat and flavour

Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano is another essential component to an exceptional Wild Mushroom Cream Sauce, and I used some that I had brought back recently from Emilia-Romagna, both in the sauce as well as in a bowl for garnishing the pasta once it was served.

Parmigiano-Reggiano from the Dumani familiy's 'caseificio' 
in Emilia-Romagna, which found it's way back from our recent trip to Italy!

I'm usually my harshest critic where cooking is concerned, but this Tagliatelle with Wild Mushroom & Brandy Boursin Cream Sauce was excellent — as good or better than any dish I've enjoyed eating out at restaurants. Although, going through pasta-withdrawl since coming back from Italy might have something to do with how thoroughly we savoured the Tagliatelle ai funghi e crema!

Tagliatelle with Wild Mushroom & Brandy Cream Sauce with Boursin
Serves 2

3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 french shallot, peeled and minced
8 oz crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
8 oz shiitake mushroom, thinly sliced
8 oz shimeji mushrooms, ends trimmed
1 cup 10% cream
1/4 cup Brandy, or to taste
6 sprigs fresh thyme
3 tbsp Boursin - Garlic & Fine Herbs
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Kosher salt and black pepper
12 oz dried Tagliatelle pasta
Maldon salt for garnish

In a large skillet, heat the butter and oil over medium-high heat. Once the butter is melted, add the shallot and sauté for about 8-10 minutes, until the onion is translucent and tender. Add the sliced cremini and shiitake mushrooms and sauté 3-4 minutes, until the mushrooms are lightly browned. Then add the shimeji mushrooms and sauté for about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add a glug of brandy and cook for 3-4 minutes allowing the mixture to reduce. Then stir in the heavy cream, boursin and thyme. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook the mushroom sauce for 10 minutes or so, stirring frequently. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and once bubbling, add the noodles and cooked according to the instructions on the package. Once done, add the pasta to the sauce and toss to coat. Add a handful of Parmigiano to the sauce and stir to combine. If the sauce is too thick, add some hot pasta water. Serve in warmed dinner bowls and garnish with some sprig of fresh thyme, a grind of black pepper and a sprinkle of Maldon salt.

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