Duxelles: The Recipe That Made My Dad Puke
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I knew that I wanted to try making duxelles from the moment that I heard The Chew's Carla Hall mention it in an interview with me ahead of the holiday season. I had no idea what it was, but she spoke about it with such gusto as we discussed the “turducken of vegetables" that she had made for her husband once upon a Thanksgiving. Carla's vegetarian turducken consisted of a small squash stuffed inside of a butternut squash that was then packed into a “bigger pumpkin thing."
“And inside you have this mushroom duxelles that you pack in there,” she continued, painting a picture of her dish's assembly. “You have two halves and then you actually tie it up like you would a roast and you roast that thang and [a gasp, foreshadowing:] then you can slice it and you can put gravy on it!”
By the end of our conversation, I wanted to gnaw my teeth into the raw acorn squash that we had in our kitchen like a beaver and wash it down with whatever duxelles was.
*Note: There are often just as many errors in my own food writing since I type with my toes while I use my hands to cook/eat.
I turned to the internet and learned from a post on Epicurious with four typographical errors* that duxelles is a cooked mixture of mushrooms, shallots, and herbs that can be served in a number of ways. The author suggested to eat it “on toast points with whipped goat cheese and fresh parsley, or use as filling for ravioli or omelets.” This post also taught me that duxelles is named after “Marquis d'Uxelles.” Didn’t know what that meant either, so I googled the term and was pointed in the direction of Nicolas Chalon du Blé, marquis d'Uxelles and Cormatin, who was a French general and Foreign Minister. Fancy!
I decided that I wanted mine in homemade ravioli, so I doubled the original 2-cup-yielding recipe just to be safe. Two pounds of mushrooms were thus purchased — one half Baby Bellas, one half white buttons. The dressing of the ravioli would be simple, just lemon zest, parsley, shaved Pecorino Romano cheese, Himalayan sea salt, and fresh cracked black pepper. After spending an hour cleaning and dicing the mushrooms, I really wanted the duxelles to have a Cher moment.
If you’ve never worked with mushrooms before, they are dirty and unstable wide-brimmed fungi that come from the ground. To clean them, you must rub their tops delicately with a paper towel knowing that they will fracture if your thumb spasms even just a little bit without issuing an early warning. I needed to trim the stem ends first, which is the most fun part of the mushroom-cleaning process because you can hear a little pop when the stem breaks away from the top. It provides the same catharsis as popping bubble wrap does.
As I cleaned and diced the rest of the mushrooms, I listened to a few of Martin Luther King’s speeches on Spotify because it was MLK Day and I find that it’s important to reflect on a holiday rather than just frolic around it. Spotify has a great Spoken Word section by the way, which contains speeches, poetry and classic novels read aloud. I'll take my check whenever you're ready, Spotty.
I finished preparing the herbs, shallot, and garlic and buttered up my pan in the same way that I used to butter up my band teachers in middle school: unabashedly and generously.
It was a very simple cooking process if you’ve ever sautéed vegetables before. In the Joy of Cooking’s recipe for duxelles, dry sherry and heavy cream are added to the mixture while it reduces. They also suggest chopping the mushrooms in a food processor and extracting their moisture through a dampened cheesecloth. This would have been nice to know, but we can only move forward since I’m not great at moonwalking.
Then I made the ravioli dough per Marcella Hazan’s trusted recipe. This is a process that will be explained in its own blog post or TinyLetter, so stay tuned, invite a friend to join my newsletter, and enjoy this picture of them in their natural habitat, dusted in semolina flour. Yes, they are cut in different shapes, because I am of the liberal arts mindset.
When dinnertime rolled around, I cooked them in a pot of salted boiling water and stuck to my guns on the aforementioned dressing. My, my, they sure did look nice.
My mother had the stomach flu, so she ate toast. My sister Marla ate the spinach and ricotta gnudi that I made for her as a treat since she doesn’t like mushrooms, so my dad and I were assigned to eat the duxelles ravioli on our own. They were delicate. The mushroom taste was subtle and paired well with the “sauce,” though I think that tarragon or basil might have been a better choice than parsley as an accompanying herb. Dry sherry or heavy cream would have been a welcome addition as well, but I enjoyed the simpler iteration of duxelles because it was light on the stomach. Or so I thought.
My dad, who ingests a handful of vegetables each month, ate three bowls of ravioli in a matter of fifteen minutes. I was proud and my kneecaps high-fived underneath the table when he went the extra mile by plating some salad. Suddenly, though, a large and unusual belch escaped him. Dad often belches at dinner, but I could see in his eyes that all was not well in Stevetown. He remained at the dinner table with a napkin pressed to his lips until he realized that he could not steer himself away from his imminent destiny, which was kneeling in front of the golden throne. Suffice it to say, all of our appetites were flushed away at that moment, too.
A container of leftover duxelles ravioli still sits in the fridge, but I can’t bear to eat it until this anecdotal association to them is purged from my memory. Don't let my father's sensitivity to vegetables deter you from trying the recipe, though. It's a versatile savory delight that I can't wait to test in a goat cheese omelette when he is not around.
Duxelles Olive Digest Rating:
It's literally just mushrooms, shallots, herbs, spices, and butter!
Will try with dry sherry to add a boost of flavor.
Likelihood of Trying Again: 5/5
In 2-10 months.
Read more entries like these here.
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