So the last time that we talked about mushrooms, we were covering duxelle. The key lesson with the duxelle had been patience, and how you couldn't rush it – if you cooked it too fast, you'd scorch the mushrooms and get that nasty burnt flavor.
For the mushroom en croûte, we're going to go back to talking about patience, but this time in regards to baked goods.
The first thing to cover would be the dish we're preparing in the video – the mushroom en croûte. The pastry we wrap around the duxelle-stuffed portabella mushroom is what's called "puff pastry". Reason why? It puffs up! Hmmmmm... ; ) Puff pastry is technically known as a laminated dough, since it consists of many layers, like laminate flooring. Croissant and danish dough are also laminated, and they all share the similar attribute of layers of butter and dough. The butter melts and steams, causing the pastry to rise up. There's a specific temperature you want to use when baking these kinds of dough, and 375-400º F is about right.
Now, some people tend to crank the oven up even higher than that, which can work for an en croûte – up to a point. The higher heat browns up the pastry rather nicely, which looks great, but this all goes back to the patience thing. One problem is that the pastry doesn't cook all the way through, so you don't get all the crispy, crunchy layers out of the pastry that you should. The innards of the en croûte won't heat up either, so you'll have a nicely browned and attractive appetizer, but it won't be as crunchy or as hot inside as you'd like.
It may pain you to have to wait by the oven for the en croûte to cook all the way through, and you may want to pull it out when it gets golden brown. But the important thing about puff pastry is that you cook it longer than you'd think, since it really needs that extra time in the oven to get completely crisp. Puff pastry is tough – don't worry about it, it can handle the long time – and don't stress about it drying out, either. You've got all that delicious, moist filling inside to counterpoint the crunchiness of the shell.
So bake it hot (but not too hot) and for a while, and you'll have an en croûte that's just right.
- Chef Savage
MUSHROOM EN CROUTE
6 PORTABELLA MUSHROOMS
½ C BALSAMIC VINEGAR
6 CLOVES GARLIC
Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
Take mushrooms, flip them upside down and take the stem off and scrap the fins with a spoon. Place in a baking dish.
Chop garlic and shallots in a food processer and slowly add in vinegar and water till combined. Pour vinegar mixture evenly over mushrooms and then cover with foil. Cook in oven for 1.5 hours. Most of the liquid should evaporate but not all and the mushrooms should be fork tender. Cool mushrooms in refrigerator.
Mix together Duxelle and feta. Split mixture between the six mushrooms.
Steam the spinach and place over the Duxelle covering it entirely.
Take thawed puff pastry and using a lattice cutter roll it over the pastry cutting the whole pastry in one direction. Very gently cut the pastry sheet into 4x4 squares. Take one square and carefully spread open trying to keep the each opening the same. Then place over the mushroom and tuck the extra pastry under and repeat till all are covered. Spay each with a vegetable spray and bake in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 140 degrees.
Something that occurs naturally to chefs (and probably doesn’t often cross the mind of everyone else) is butchery. Maybe not going so far as to render down a live animal into the beautiful little prepackaged segments you’d find in your local grocer’s meat department, but slicing up a whole chicken or a side of a beef is a surety.
The wonderful thing about this (the big secret, if you will) is that you can actually save a good bit of money doing this. It’s not really hard to do - all you need is a nice knife (the sharper the better!) and the will to learn. Practice makes perfect, of course, and if you’re able to devote a bit more time, you too can get in on the secret.
Whenever I’m cooking up some chicken at home, be it soup, sautéed chicken breasts or something as fancy as the Duxelle Stuffed Pheasant Breast (well, I guess I’d be cooking pheasant then, but… whatever), I just grab whole chickens and cut them up into the pieces I need. Then I can have choice – I could do full breasts, split ones, cook off the tenderloins for whatever, and maybe stuff the legs into a jambonette. That, and you get that wonderful carcass that you can toss into a pot with a few pieces of celery, carrot and onion and c’est voila! You’ve got your own, delicious, homemade chicken stock. Use it with that chicken meat you just cut up and you’ve got the best damn chicken soup ever.
That’s not even beginning to talk about what you can save by buying full loins or strips of beef from a Costco or Sam’s – learn how to trim and cut ‘em up, and you can do a big ol’ steak barbecue on the cheap. All in all, butchery is one of those things that can bring you a lot of joy, if you just devote some time to learning it.
- Chef Savage
Roasted Breast of Pheasant
Stuffed with Mushroom Duxelle with Raspberry Demi
Yield: 6 portions
3 each whole Pheasants
2 tablespoons shallots (diced)
1/2 cup fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons raspberries preserves
1 cup demi-glace
Salt, pepper and sugar to taste
Demi-Glace: Place shallots, raspberries, preserves and wine in a saucepot and reduce by half. Add the demi-glace and reduce again by half. Adjust the seasonings to taste.
Stuffing & Cooking: Trim the extra fat off of the breast and butterfly with a boning knife (the half of the breast that is opposite the wing bone). Place about 4 ozs. of the duxelle on the breast, skin side down. Roll the breast around the stuffing; try to seal the stuffing in. Place the stuffed breast, crease side down, on a roasting pan and bake in a 400° oven, with the wing pointing upward, for approximately 10 minutes.
To Serve: Cut in slices about 1/4" thick and serve in a fan with the sauce on the bottom.
An incredibly versatile paste or stuffing (think: Beef Wellington)!
How does that saying go? "Good things come to those who wait"?
That could be applied to most everything in cooking. Sure, there’s plenty of stuff that’s really easy to do in no time at all, and you don’t really need to wait for them – fresh salads, a quick fired steak, seared scallops - all sorts of delectable items.
But a good stew or a hearty sauce, a slow baked meringue or a balsamic reduction – these are things that need time and patience to perfect.
Mushroom duxelle is one of those items that should be filed in the ‘Worth the Wait’ category of your recipe book. I’ve always liked it for the sheer depth of utility – concentrated mushroom flavor, ready to go, without having to take up a ton of space in a recipe.
Some things don’t reduce down well, their flavors don’t hold up to the prolonged heat: berries, herbs, fruits – those are things designed for low prep, their flavors immediate and fresh. Mushrooms, on the other hand, do great. The flavor mellows a bit, smoothes out and becomes uniform.
Here, at The Cliff House, we make these mushroom en croutes on the dining room menu, with marinated portabella mushrooms, feta cheese mixed with duxelle, all wrapped in a puff pastry crust. The duxelle lets me add super-intense mushroom flavor into the filling, without having to make it watery or taking up too much space for the feta. You can do the same thing with salmon or beef tenderloin, wrapping it in puff pastry, with a thin layer of that duxelle inside giving a new angle of flavor.
Of course, you have to wait for that – you can’t rush a duxelle. It takes time, a watchful eye, low heat, and ... did I mention time? If you cook it on too high a heat, you’ll scorch it and make it bitter. Too low and… nothing will happen, not very surprising there. Pull it off too soon and you won’t have cooked it enough, and it will be too wet; anything you add it to will be soggy. So, in true Goldilocks fashion, you’ve got to wait and make it… just right.
- Chef Savage
3 pounds Crimini, Portobello or Button mushrooms
2 ounces butter or vegetable oil
3 tablespoons chopped shallots
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
salt and pepper, to taste
Finely chop mushrooms with a knife. Heat butter in large skillet, add shallots and garlic, sauté till translucent. Add chopped mushrooms. Stirring regularly cook over low heat until all moister cooks out of mushrooms and mixture becomes dry. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
You may also add fresh herbs and white truffle oil to the finished product.