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Wild Mushroom Pasta with a Gin-Cream Sauce

mushroom pasta

I know, I know. Mushrooms with cream over pasta. It’s a cliche, I get it. But you know what? It’s a cliche because its really good! Besides, this is not your mother’s “creamy mushroom alfredo” from 1982.

This is a hybrid French-Italian dish, not because I’ve seen this in Italy, but because it relies on demi-glace and a few supreme ingredients: Do not make this dish with dried mushrooms, and do not make it with inferior ingredients. You will disappoint me, your guests and ultimately yourself. Capisce?

Now, that said, you have some latitude. I use a Treviso radicchio, which looks like the pale Belgian endive you see in the supermarket. But Treviso is hard to find (although they sell it every week at the Davis Farmer’s Market, if you are near Sacramento), so use the regular round radicchio, which usually lives next to the Belgian endive in the produce aisle.

What mushrooms? I used angel wings, which are a wild white variant of oyster mushrooms (Note: Don’t eat them if you have serious kidney problems, as they apparently killed some elderly Japanese who had histories of renal failure.) as well as stone mushrooms I found in my backyard; OK, I planted a kit in the ground, so I was sure about what they were, but still. I suggest you use regular oyster mushrooms, which are widely available, plus some good, fresh wild shrooms; go to a farmer’s market to find them. Or you can buy fresh wild mushrooms online from Earthy Delights.¬†As a last resort, use¬†shitake mushrooms.

Oh, and the type of gin matters, too. Everyone’s gin is made a little different, and I like Bombay Sapphire. I’m not saying you can’t use another brand, but it will taste slightly different…

Serves 4

  • 1 pound mixed, fresh wild mushrooms (oyster and something else)
  • 2 minced shallots
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seed
  • 1 head Treviso radicchio, chopped, or 1/2 head of the round variety
  • 3 tablespoons Bombay Sapphire gin
  • 2 tablespoons demi-glace, or 1 cup low-sodium chicken stock cooked down by half
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper
  • Grated lemon zest
  • Short pasta, such as farfalle or orcchiette
  1. Get a kettle of water for the pasta hot. Add enough salt to make it taste like the sea.
  2. Get a pan hot. Add the mushrooms to the dry pan and shake often, essentially stir-frying. They should squeak. Soon they will begin to release their water. Turn the heat down to medium-high and cook for another minute.
  3. Add a little salt, the olive oil and shallots, toss to combine and cook until both begin to color. Add the garlic and radicchio and cook another 1-2 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water.
  5. Add the gin. Let this boil down a few moments, then add the demi-glace and coriander seed. Swirl to combine and bring to a boil.
  6. Add the heavy cream, swirl and boil this down until thick. Turn off the heat and toss with the pasta.
  7. Grind black pepper and sprinkle lemon zest on at the end.

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