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 Pane de casa, fettuccine with peas, lamb stock and butter- under braised lamb shank. Really happy to be home with my delicious boy. Home-food rocks!  Dinner tonight; rack of lamb, roast potatoes and sautéed sugar snap peas. The last two nights, I've had dinner at home alone-jon has had to travel. I'm telling you this because even when by oneself, we ALL still want and should feel able to eat well, at home. We're worth it!!!
 Strategic cooking that began three days ago: since, after making the shrimp scampi pizza, I knew I still has one half of one pizza dough in the fridge, and because I also knew that the following day, I wanted to use the ovens retained heat to braise lamb shanks, using residual heat (no flame and oven door shut) to serve the following night for Jon's welcome home dinner, making pizza (which requires intense heat) helped. Here is the process: marinate lamb shanks in full bottle of red wine- overnight in the fridge.). I used a Barolo-(bought the same bottle to drink with the lamb tonight!) with the wine, in the marinade, are chopped onions, celery, carrots, thyme and rosemary. (Turn shanks once while marinating). The next day, reconstitute some dried porcinis- set aside in hot liquid. take shanks out of marinade (reserve this) and pat dry. Season with salt-pepper and brown severely in thin layer of olive oil. Take shanks out of pan and dump out hot fat. Add to pan 1stick butter or mix olive oil and butter- add to fat, chopped onions, garlic, celery, carrots, mushrooms -sauté until liquid evaporates. Add a couple of tablespoons tomato paste- stir and cook till mixture starts to grab the bottom of the pan-stir in a few tablespoons flour and cook a couple of minutes-stirring- add all of marinade with veg and herbs, lamb stock (use chicken stock as sub) and porcini liquid. Bring to full bubble. Season with salt and pepper. Chop porcinis and add now. Add browned shanks to simmering sauce (meat should be just covered) and simmer till very tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. (3 hours on my wood oven). Remove from oven. Allow to cool and remove fat. Reheat now or refrigerate-I code the latter. More to come.  Dinner last night: mussels in a rustic and spicy red sauce and broccolini and toasted garlic pizza.

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Cream of Mushroom Soup Concentrate

Rich soup made from homemade concentrate

If you like that stuff in a can, you’ll love my homemade version of the following mushroom soup “concentrate.” Whether making soup or gravy, all you do is reconstitute the concentrate over gentle heat, with enough added liquid (stock, water, milk or light cream) until you’ve reached the desired consistency. When satisfied with the texture, bring up the temperature to piping hot, and you’re good to go. See my notes at the end of this recipe, about making a larger batch for freezing. So, now you can forget the can and truly taste the mushrooms!

Any time I’ve suggested a tool or a piece of equipment or a culinary term that’s unfamiliar to you, go to Kitchen Management to get more information.

Store your concentrate in a tighly lidded container

Special Equipment

  • Heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan

For the mushroom soup concentrate:

  • 1 ½ cups dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon concentrated beef bouillon paste, like “Better than Bouillon” (optional)
  • 1 cup light cream or milk (even nonfat)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 10 ounces button or cremini mushrooms, wiped clean and coarsely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
  • Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • To reconstitute: per 1 ½ cups of the assembled concentrate: Add about 1 cup of either stock or water (choose from vegetable, chicken, beef stock) or mix milk and stock

1. To reconstitute the dried mushrooms: Place the dried porcinis in a bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Let the mushrooms reconstitute for 10 to 15 minutes, or until supple. Lift the now supple mushrooms out of the flavorful liquid and retain 1 generous cup of mushrooms and 1 strained cup of the liquid. Chop the mushrooms coarsely and set them aside next to the reserved liquid. Save any remaining reconstituted mushrooms and liquid to use in another recipe.

2. To assemble the soup concentrate: Measure the cream or milk and pour ¼ cup of it into another small bowl. Stir the cornstarch into the smaller amount of milk and set it next to the reserved porcini liquid, for now. Melt the butter in a 2-quart saucepan and, when hot and bubbling, add the shallots and chopped fresh mushrooms. Cook the vegetables over high heat until the shallots are softened, very fragrant, and the mushrooms give off their liquid. Stir the flour into the wet vegetables and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Stir the larger amount of milk into the pot along with the porcini liquid and chopped porcinis and bring the mixture to a brisk bubble, over medium heat. Stir in the bouillon paste, if using. Reduce the heat to low and cook for about 5 minutes, until thickened. Give the cornstarch mixture a good stir and pour it into the pot. Stir the mixture as it comes to a simmer, add the thyme and let the soup base cook, stirring frequently, uncovered, for 5 minutes (the soup will become thicker and will take on a slight sheen). Season the soup base with salt and pepper to taste, then remove from the stove and pour into another bowl. Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on top of the mushroom soup concentrate (to prevent a skin from forming), and let the mixture cool. Refrigerate or freeze for future use. If planning to freeze to use in a recipe that calls for “canned” mushroom soup, divide the concentrate into 1 ¼ cups increments, since that’s the size of a standard can.

3. To reconstitute the concentrate, to use as soup: To each cup of soup base, add 3/4 cup of any kind of stock or just use water. After reheating, if still too thick, add a bit more liquid (use stock, light cream, milk or water)

Timing is Everything

  • The mushroom soup concentrate can be made, cooled and stored in the refrigerator for 5 days, well covered. Alternatively, it can be frozen for 6 months. To thaw, leave in the refrigerator overnight. Reheat gently, but fully, adding as much stock, milk or water, as needed to reach the desired consistency.

About freezing the mushroom soup concentrate: If you make the concentrate and freeze it, don’t be concerned if, after thawing, it looks somewhat curdled. This will correct itself, once fully reheated. I would suggest, however, for the most homogenous texture, after thawing, when a recipe suggests that you use the canned soup “straight” (without liquid) you should stir the measured concentrate, over low heat, with a minimum of ¼ cup liquid (or even crème fraiche), until the texture evens out. And, for best color retention, I always add an extra dose of fresh thyme when reheating, since freezing seems to muddy its green color and quiet its delicate flavor.

SHOPPING LIST

At-a-Glance Reminder of Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon concentrated beef bouillon paste, like “Better than Bouillon” (optional)
  • 1 cup light cream or milk (even nonfat)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 10 ounces button or cremini mushrooms, wiped clean and coarsely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
  • Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • To reconstitute: per 1 ½ cups of the assembled concentrate: Add about 1 cup of either stock or water (choose from vegetable, chicken, beef stock) or mix milk and stock

From the supermarket shelf:

  • Unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • Cornstarch
  • Dried porcini mushrooms
  • Beef bouillon paste (optional)
  • Chicken or vegetable broth (only if not using homemade Chicken Stock)

From the produce section:

  • Button or cremini mushrooms
  • Shallot
  • Fresh thyme

From the dairy case:

  • Butter
  • Light cream or milk

From the spice section:

  • Salt
  • pepper
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