Crimini_Feature_web2.jpg
Siiri Sampson 2011
Psychedelic or not, me + mushrooms + fire = hours of endless, unconstrained fun.
When your fridge starts to moan and groan

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Crimini Mushrooms Fixin' for a Fungal Three-Way

Crimini_Feature_web2.jpg
Siiri Sampson 2011
Psychedelic or not, me + mushrooms + fire = hours of endless, unconstrained fun.
When your fridge starts to moan and groan from the monotony of the same lame ingredients, it's time for a culinary three-way. Turning a tired stovetop into a weekday workhorse, Voracious columnist Siiri Sampson brings a fresh, seasonal, or obscure ingredient to life with three treatments: decadent, healthy, and quick-fix.

Mushrooms, cilantro, cottage cheese, and Miracle Whip. What do these ingredients have in common? They're all on the list of "Love it or hate it, there is no in-between." Admit it--at some point in your life you've probably faked a food allergy to steer clear of at least one of the above that you hate more than the Bieb. However, some folks believe in the art of culinary crossover, wherein the preparation of a "hate it" ingredient somehow crosses the line, causing shock, disbelief, and lots of "mmmm" noises. Today, mushrooms are up to bat, and no matter what your objection may be--too mushy, smelly, or rubbery--there's at least one dish here that might tip the scales for you.

With hundreds of variations, each bringing as much flair as a poodle at Westminster, it's important to start with a 'shroom that doesn't offend easily. Picking something mild and versatile, like the crimini (which, by the by, is the same as the button, white, baby portobello, and brown), is a great place to start.

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Siiri Sampson 2011.
Mashed potatoes can literally act as a grandma stand-in--they're warm, squishy, comforting, and know just how to put you to sleep--this time with rich mushroom gravy.
Decadent: Mashed potatoes aren't really what you'd call a summer dish, but then again comfort food knows no boundaries, right? The only thing better than perfectly whipped, buttery, dense mashers is garlic mashed potatoes. Unless of course there's gravy involved--that's even better--in which case you better eat them in workout clothes with running shoes on because it'll take a week to burn away the calories and guilt.

This incarnation of the Thanksgiving staple takes the richness up a notch with a bucket of half and half, caramelized onions, and lots of mushrooms. Here's what happened:

• Boil your potatoes, cut into quarters, until knife-tender, set aside off heat, keep in water till ready to mash.

• Saute a half cup of diced onions until they caramelize, add a half cup chopped mushrooms, cook on medium for 5 minutes, then puree with 1/2 cup half and half.

• In the now empty pan (covered in caramelized onion sugars), build a roux from equal parts butter and flour, cook, stirring for 2 minutes on medium low heat.

• Raise heat to medium, and add 1 cup half and half while stirring continuously.

• Pour in pureed caramelized onion and mushroom mixture.

Keep that gravy on low, covered, while you mash up those taters and add garlic butter and of course more half and half. Plate it up and serve with mushroom chips you pan-fried to within an inch of life and enjoy!

Crimini_Healthy_web1.jpg
Siiri Sampson 2011.
Fresh, flavorful, and healthy? And you said this is meatloaf, right?! How is that even possible?
Healthy: Don't skip this dish just because it's meatloaf, OK! That would be rude and just plain stupid, considering this version is tasty enough to eat three days in a row, after serving to your boss and his "girlfriend" for the obligatory business dinner at your house. That's right, I'm suggesting serving meatloaf to guests. As they say, the "secret's in the sauce," and that's half the trick in this upgraded spin on the American standard.

Instead of greasy, fatty, and predictable beef, resulting in heartburn for the next five hours, take three steps to the left and use some 93/7 (that's 93% lean, 7% fat) ground turkey. Grab a large mixing bowl and get to work:

• Beat two eggs, then add 1/3 cup each of skim milk and uncooked quinoa (yes, you can just use breadcrumbs, but quinoa or even oats is healthier).

• Add 1/3 cup each of chopped, raw mushrooms and onions as well as 1 tsp dried oregano, a dash of garlic powder, and salt and pepper.

• Stir together, then add the whole package of raw ground turkey. Once well combined, pour into a loaf pan and bake on a cookie sheet for 60 minutes at 350.

• Take out, spoon off any fat, and add the secret sauce: equal parts Dijon mustard and BBQ sauce. Only use a thin layer, bake for 15 minutes more.

To round out the meal, steam or pan-roast some seasonal veggies like summer squash and zucchini. Top off the plate with more of your secret sauce, thinned with 1 tbsp of water. Don't be fooled by the bland list of ingredients--it smells and tastes so good you could charge people for the recipe. I won't tell.

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Siiri Sampson 2011.
In a pinch, you can trick your body into believing mushrooms are as healthy as broccoli, and when they taste this good, does it really matter?
Quick Fix: This dish can literally turn people (and we're not talking teams here). Turn the haters in your life--mushroom haters, that is--into believers. Not to toot my own horn, but I've never had mushrooms as good as these. And I love mushrooms; I order them everywhere I go, hoping someone else will do them as well. I can't take all the credit, though--this dish comes from dear old Dad.

This quick fix really comes down to the timing, so if you've only 10 minutes, skip the polenta (unless you bought it premade, cheater), and just dig in:

• Slice all your mushrooms (about 2-3 cups raw) and set aside.

• Get your largest pan medium hot, and add 1 tbsp olive oil and then immediately 1 tbsp cold butter.

• As soon as the butter completely melts, add the mushrooms. DO NOT COVER.

• Stir every minute until mushrooms start to brown, continue till all mushrooms have browned.

• Quickly add 1 shot (1.5oz) of Yukon Jack (the "black sheep of Canadian liquors") and immediately cover the pan.

• Reduce heat to medium low, and do NOT remove the lid for anything. Let sit for 5 minutes.

The sugar in the Yukon Jack will transform the fungi into a heavenly, aromatic, and crack-like dish. It'll have you going back to the pan, saying to yourself, "I swear we made three cups, who ate the rest?!" If you've got time for the polenta, you can make it from scratch in five minutes while the mushrooms are simmering. If not, just grab a bowl and hoard these for yourself.

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