Duxelles, preserved mushroom essence
Drop a spoonful into almost any dish to add depth of flavor.
Late winter is a fine time for mushrooms in Israel. In fact, Israelis are showing a big new interest in cooking with all kinds of mushrooms, so good ones are available most of the year. But even hot house produce tastes best when it’s grown in its natural season. Soon the weather will become hot and dry again, so this is the time to snatch up the best of those succulent fungi.
There were fat, fresh champignon mushrooms in the market this week. I selected a bagful, one by one, dreaming of mushroom soup and a leek/mushroom quiche. Possibly gnocchi with mushroom sauce. But I knew I’d still have mushrooms left over. No problem: I made duxelles, which is chopped mushrooms preserved in butter.
It’s an ancient method. The only high-tech improvement is using a food processor to chop the raw mushrooms if you don’t feel like hand chopping.
- 1/2 pound mushrooms, champignon or portobellos (white or brown). Rinse and wipe them dry (make sure there’s no dirt on them)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, sage or crushed rosemary
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
Chop the mushrooms into fine dice. Or use your food processor.
Place mushrooms into a clean kitchen towel, one you don’t mind getting stained. Fold the towel to contain the mushrooms.
Wring out the mushrooms over a bowl. Squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Refrigerate and save the juice for soup or gravy.
Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter gently.
Add mushrooms, shallots, salt, pepper and thyme.
Sauté until mushrooms are dry and the aroma is intense. This should take no more than 5 minutes.
Stir in and melt the second tablespoon of butter.
Add the wine. Stir until it has evaporated.
Remove duxelles from heat and cool.
The duxelles are ready to use right away. To store for future use, pat the paste into a strip of tin foil, roll it closed, and freeze. Just cut off tablespoon-sized portions when you need them.
So how do you use duxelles?
- Spread a thin layer of duxelles on toast that’s been lightly rubbed with a garlic clove. Now you have bruschetta.
- Flavor any soup with a tablespoon or two.
- Start an omelet by melting some duxelles in your frying pan, then pouring the eggs over them.
- Spoon some over steamed vegetables or baked potatoes.
- Stir some into your next polenta. Or use duxelles as the topping for polenta (or pasta) instead of sauce.
- Make a mushroom butter: beat butter until its soft; add duxelles and taste to adjust salt and pepper. It's delicious with grilled fish.
- Add to any sauce, including tomato sauce.
- Steam sweet potatoes; drain well; melt duxelles in a frying pan and roll the cooked sweet potatoes in them until they’re slightly glazed.
You see? Duxelles add body and mushroom flavor to any food.