Author Notes: Until I met my Polish husband, mushrooms were, to me, either a veggie burger substitute or fun obstacle to eat around in my salad. Little did I know that Eastern Europeans are (apparently) Mushroom People, and that the world of fungi is to be a part of my life forever more. It could be worse.
Mushroom flavor permeates every level of this dish – the couscous is cooked in porcini soaking liquid with dried mushrooms while a cream sauce reduces with more porcini flavor. After the sauce and pasta are swirled together, a shower of sauteed shitakes add more of that fungalicious essence, as well as some welcome crunch. —MeghanVK
Serves: 2 as a main, 4 as a side
cups hot water
cups dried porcini mushrooms, or a mix of dried wild mushrooms
cup Israeli couscous
garlic clove, minced
bouillon cube (or 1 tsp of my favorite, Better than Bouillon)
olive oil, as needed
butter, as needed
salt and pepper, as needed
pounds shitake mushrooms, wiped clean, ends lightly trimmed
- Soak 1 cup of the dried mushrooms in hot water for ten minutes. Once the time is up, remove and chop the mushrooms; set aside. Strain the soaking liquid and reserve.
- While the mushrooms soak, set a saucepan over medium heat and add a ~tablespoon of oil and teaspoon of butter (enough fat to coat the bottom). Once the butter has stopped foaming, add the garlic and onion, cooking until just softened. Pour in the Israeli couscous and stir, toasting the little couscous nubbins until they are a lovely golden brown. Add 1 1/4 cups of the mushroom soaking liquid with the bouillon and chopped mushrooms. Once the liquid is boiling, reduce heat, cover, and let simmer on low for ten minutes.
- In a separate saute pan, heat another tablespoon of olive oil with yet another dab of butter. When it is very hot, add the shitake mushrooms and allow to brown and caramelize, shaking the pan occasionally. Due to their shape, they will not saute evenly, but that’s okay: once most of the mushrooms have some nice crunchy spots and nothing looks raw, take them off the heat, sprinkle with salt, and set aside.
- In the same saute pan, cook the remaining 1/4 cup of mushroom liquid over medium-high heat with the cream. Finely chop – pulverize, really – the remaining dried mushrooms and add to the sauce. Reduce until the liquid easily coats the back of a spoon. It should be quite thick. Taste for salt and correct seasoning.
- Swirl the sauce into the couscous. Spoon into bowls and top with the sauteed shitakes. Lily-gilders may wish to sprinkle some truffle salt on top.