I’m an inefficient shopper -- and I’m okay with that. I’d like to think I shop in the French style, but with a twist.
When the French shop, they don’t head to the megamart. They get their baguette at the boulangerie, meat at the butcher, cheese at the fromagerie, and produce and fresh flowers at the farmer’s market.
Talk about #grocerygoals! But I’d venture to say you can do something a little different. Nowadays, I bop around with my groceries, but with ethnic markets. I get my spices, herbs, and rare mangoes from the Indian grocery store. I get much of my produce -- especially fruit, mushrooms, and chilis -- from the Korean grocer. I get my olives and pastry fixes at the Greek grocery, tomatoes and corn from my Jersey Local farmer’s market … you get the idea.
I love Wegman’s and Whole Foods as much as the next girl, but their “international” sections can be a little underwhelming. Why limit yourself to 1/16 of an aisle when you can have the whole store?
This Italo-Asian Mushroom Melange is an example of what multicultural shopping can get you. I got these adorable mushroom pasta shapes and Calabrian chilis from an Italian specialty market. I got fresh mushrooms from the Korean grocer. And dried morels from a long-ago French vacation. You might be tempted to make one Italian dish out of all Italian ingredients, but that’d be like wearing head-to-toe of one brand. You can do better!
Is this an efficient way of grocery shopping? Absolutely not. But it’s a lot more fun and horizon-expanding.
2 lbs fresh mushrooms -- I used a combination of baby portobello, oyster, white beech and shiitake
1 oz dried morels (optional but a lovely touch)
¼ cup dry white wine like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio
2 cups pasta -- This is a fun mushroom shape that actually tastes like mushrooms because of dried porcini in the dough
1 ½ tablespoons butter
1 heaping teaspoon crushed Calabrian chili (if you don’t have this, feel free to use red pepper flakes)
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
If using, rehydrate morels for at least 10 minutes in lukewarm water. Save the soaking liquid.
Dice shallot and wash and cut mushrooms. Place two frying pans on the stove on medium heat. Once hot, add olive oil, season shallot with salt then saute until translucent. Add mushrooms to both pans, season, and saute until mushrooms are browned, about 4-5 minutes. Deglaze both pans with white wine.
Fill large pot with water and liberally salt (it should taste like the sea). Bring to a boil. Cook pasta until slightly underdone, about 6-7 minutes. Do not rinse the pasta because you want some of the starchiness in the final dish.
Consolidate the mushrooms in one pan. Add the soaked morels, butter, and pasta. Add ¼ cup of the pasta water and ¼ cup of the morel soaking stock (if you didn’t use dried mushrooms, add more pasta water). Stir until butter is melted and the pasta is fully cooked. Add more liquid if the dish seems too dry.
Right before serving, add parsley and Calabrian chilis. Stir.
TIPS & TRICKS
It might seem fussy to use two frying pans, but you don’t want to overcrowd the mushrooms. Mushrooms contain a lot of water and if they’re packed too tight, the water will steam-cook the mushrooms, rather than brown them.
It’s okay if your pasta isn’t totally ad dente. A softer pasta will mimic the texture of the mushrooms, making for a more blended bite. The fun of this dish is that the pasta seamlessly meshes with the mushrooms.
When you add the butter with the pasta water and mushroom stock, you’re creating an emulsion. An emulsion is two unlike ingredients (like oil and water) that are suspended together. The pasta water is key because the starches create a sort of “scaffolding” where the butter can hang out. Think of roux in a mac and cheese -- the flour stabilizes the cheese. In this case, the starch in the pasta water stabilizes the butter.