Monday, May 17, 2010

Chicken, Mushrooms, and Cauliflower "Mac"

I have decided to treat mushrooms like bacon. To clarify, I am including them in almost every dish I now make. All foods have different properties (bacon's is that it is awesome!) and mushrooms have the ability to satisfy. They are high in the chemicals (the carboxylate anion of glutamic acid) that contribute to the taste, umami. (Leave it to the Japanese to give a name to the taste that is difficult to explain.) We are use to salty, sweet, sour, and spice as the four primary tastes. However, we are now aware of the fifth taste; umami. It is the feeling of savory, fulfillment, and soul-restorration that comes from eating foods high in it. My favorite example is miso soup. I would always eat it and think that there was something fundamentally awesome with it. It turns out that dashi (a component of miso soup) and seaweed are both quite high in umami! I am a genius.

The color palette of this dish is just shy of institutional boring-ness, but the flavors ran strong! As the photo (And yes, it was taken on the railing of our deck. I thought I would mix up the scenery a bit.) shows we have a big ole pile of cremini and button mushrooms. These were sauteed with about a tablespoon of minced thyme and then had about 1/4 cup of chicken stock ladled in near the end. The chicken stock gave its flavor to the shroomies and picked up flavor from the pan. This became the delectable sauce you see floating around on the plate. It was included because the chicken was un-marinated and needed some moisture. The cauliflower "mac" is blanched cauliflower florets that I mixed in with a cheese sauce. I miscalculated and ended up with far too much cheese sauce, but some would argue that is impossible. The cheese sauce starts with the classic bechamel sauce and then I whip in some grated cheese. I have read about bechamel for years and have just started making it. I think the fancy French name got all big, tough-guy on me and intimidated me away. Well not no mo'! I kicked Mr. Bechamel in the face and now realize the ease and utility of it!

Take two tablespoons of butter, melt over medium heat, and then whisk in two tablespoons of flour. Bring this to a light simmer for a few minutes. Slowly pour in hot milk while whisking until it thickens. This only takes a few minutes and it is like an ankle in a tattoo parlor: a blank canvas. The cheese goes in at the end. You want the milk hot because cold milk will make the sauce seize and then you have to whisk more. A lot more.

Enjoy this dish, we were both quite happy with it, and it was around 8 points on the WW scale.

p.s. good chicken stock makes a huge difference in every dish.

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