In my perfect world, I would open my front door in the morning, walk a few yards to the woods to forage, and be welcomed by an enormous patch of mushrooms begging me to pick them and saute them up in a frying pan.
I know, I know. You’re either completely disgusted by the thought of it, or absolutely delighted. I fall in the latter category, obviously. I find mushrooms are a great divider of humanity. I’m always the Debbie Downer in the room of starving friends trying to figure out what everyone wants on their pizza. “Cheese!” “Pepperoni!” “Pineapple!” shout everyone. I roll my eyes at the mediocrity of the world’s palettes. (How are we even friends?) And then my deep, bordering-masculine voice bellows from the corner, where I’m concealed under a hoodie. “MUSHROOMS!”
(I also beg for sausage and green olives, but that’s another post.)
The room turns to look at me, booing and scrunching their noses at me. The nerve! How can she eat that repulsive fungus?! No way.
Well, my friends, yes way. I clawed my way out of the womb crying for mushrooms. For as long as I can remember, my parents and I had a Mother’s Day tradition of hopping in the car and heading to the forest to go mushroom hunting for morels. It was usually the perfect day to do it…post-melt of copious amounts of snow led to a lush, damp soil for the morels to pop up, but still before the bracken ferns reared their summery heads. The contest was to see who found the first morel. We’d get about fifteen miles into the forest and then drive along the side of the road at 5 mph, shouting commands at dad driving to stop or back up because we thought we spotted one. It was often a pine cone or a stick under a leaf, causing a ‘shroomy shadow. Occasionally, the hunch was worthwhile enough to open the door while the car was still in motion and leap out into the woods to examine more closely. Once one was found, we all hopped out and became a morel mushroom search party. One time, there was a morel on the top of a sandy eroding hill, about twelve feet tall. Two of us jumped out and raced climbing up the slippery hill to grab the first mushroom.
When we arrived home with our bounty, it was torture to wait until the next morning while the mushrooms soaked in salt water overnight to draw out any little crawly buggers that may be hiding inside. But the wait was always worth it! Morels are delicious morsels that should be considered golden nuggets of the food world. We always sauteed them in butter and salt and usually sneaked a few before adding them to an omelet for breakfast and gravy for dinner.
Morels aren’t readily available here in Utah, and it’s also the middle of February, so when my craving for a medley of wild mushrooms hit, I head over to my local neighborhood grocer (Harmon’s) to pick up a variety. I was only planning on frying them up, but while in the store I thought of making a cream, which led me to remember a fantastic mushroom-barley-thyme dish I made once. At home, I perused my cupboard and spotted a container of amaranth I hadn’t yet used. Actually, I had never yet cooked with amaranth, so this was an experiment.
It won on the first try.
The mushrooms, cream, and thyme meld together to make a great sauce that would be fantastic over pasta. Stir in some amaranth to make a risotto that is primal friendly and gluten-free, and add some greens for freshness. I almost used some Italian flat-leaf parsley, but I wanted to use up the broccoli micro-greens I purchased. (Side note: the micro-greens look like little clovers, so this would be great for a St. Patrick’s Day themed dinner!)
Heat some olive oil and toss the mushrooms in, allowing them to cook for a few minutes.
Add a few cloves of crushed garlic and some sprigs of thyme. I like extreme flavor, so I added about 8-10. After a few more minutes, pour in 1/2-3/4 pint of heavy cream.
Turn the heat to medium-low and let cook, allowing the thyme and garlic to infuse the cream. The cream will begin to bubble around the edges. This means it is thickening. Beautiful.
Meanwhile, add 1/2 cup of amaranth to a saucepan and add 1 1/2 cup water or broth. Bring to a boil, and then cover and let simmer on low for 15 minutes.
The amaranth will being to turn like porridge, a mix between Cream of Wheat and couscous. Add it to the mushroom and cream mixture and stir well until it incorporates.
Add a handful of greens to stir in and wilt. Right before serving, add a fresh handful of greens and salt and pepper to each dish as desired.
Plate it up and enjoy!
- For the mushrooms and thyme cream:
- ½ pint black trumpeter mushrooms
- ½ pint yellowfoot chantarelle mushrooms
- ½ pint shiitake mushrooms
- handful portobello mushrooms, sliced
- handful white button mushrooms, sliced
- ½ to ¾ pint heavy cream
- 3 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
- 8-10 sprigs fresh thyme
- extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- For the amaranth:
- ½ cup dry amaranth
- 1 ½ cup water or broth
- To finish:
- 4 oz broccoli micro-greens or Italian parsley
- Heat olive oil in a large pan and add mushrooms. Allow to saute for a couple minutes.
- In a separate small saucepan, add amaranth and water or broth. Bring to a boil (about 3-5 minutes), and then cover and reduce to low. Let simmer for 15 minutes.
- While the amaranth is cooking, add chopped garlic and thyme sprigs to the mushrooms. Cook an additional few minutes to allow the mushrooms and oil to soak in the garlic and thyme flavors. Add a little salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Pour cream into mushrooms and keep heat on medium. After a few minutes, the cream will begin to bubble around the edges and tint from the mushrooms. The bubbling will let the cream thicken a bit. Turn to low after a few minutes of bubbling and stirring.
- When the amaranth is nearly finished, it will start to turn to a porridge-like consistency that resembles a cross between Cream of Wheat and Moroccan couscous. Remove from heat and stir into the mushroom mixture. Stir gently for about a minute, or until the amaranth is incorporated into the mushrooms and the entire mixture melds together.
- Stir in a handful of greens. Just before serving, add some fresh greens to each dish.