A while back I received a rather pricey bottle of wine from my friend Andrea as a birthday gift. She gave it to me with the caveat that I had to make her dinner to pair with the wine. At first I thought this was a great idea until I remembered: 1. That was totally a sneaky way for Andrea to enjoy not only my cooking but also the wine she just gave me, and 2. She is a vegetarian :(
Ok, calm down you veggie lovers, don’t hate me just yet. I think that vegetarianism is awesome, and I believe we should all try to eat less meat for all the reasons any vegetarian will be overjoyed to talk to you about. The main problem I had was that she had just given me a wine from Burgundy. A deep rich earthy wine best enjoyed with duck, or lamb, or any other sort of meaty dish. Clearly a cucumber salad would not do.
At first I felt her dietary restriction would handcuff my cooking ability, but after some pondering, which may have involved some much cheaper wine, I realised this was an opportunity for me to explore something I never would have done for myself. Trick was, how to create a meal to match the wine without using the crutch of nice big slab of meat? The solution I found was mushrooms. Their rich earthy flavour would go perfectly with the pinot noir from Burgundy. This was to be a totally new experience for me as I generally hate mushrooms. I’ve forced myself to eat fungus on pizza or in a pasta but it usually resulted in me gagging more than when I have something else mushroom shaped in my mouth.
But in the name of culinary advancement I decided to suck it up (sorry, promise no more BJ puns) and cook me some mushrooms. The dish I created was a marinated portobello mushroom cap served on a wild mushroom cassoluet (aka bean stew). In the process of shopping for the meal, I discovered the Mycobotique located on Rachel just east of St. Laurent. This is a store dedicated solely to edible fungus. Shelves are lined with bags and jars of dehydrated mushrooms and all things fungus. I highly recommend a visit, even if you are just looking. The enthusiastic clerk introduced me to the exotic world of dried mushrooms, lifting the lids off jars filled with various varieties: lobster, morel, and chanterelle. They released intoxicating aromas of wood, warm earth, and some smokiness. Yum
Back in the kitchen, the dish turned out amazing! The mushroom cap didn’t have any of the slimy mushroom texture I dispise so much! It was rich and chewy with the crispy topping YUMMY! The cassoulet had a smooth full-bodied taste making a very nice pairing with the wine. I had created a successful vegetarian meal that tasted delicious, and had the depth to match a meat lover’s wine. Plus on a personal level, I had expanded my tastes to enjoy some mushrooms, and I can forsee myself having my way with more mushrooms in the future.