Posted by: ThePseudotarian | June 2, 2010

Drunk Onions with Peas and Mushrooms

I love sitting on my porch. It’s an amazing space with lots of sun, plants and always a puppy wandering around trying to get my attention or begging for a carrot and trying to get into my glass of wine. Our 6-month old Border Collie-Lab mix is the ultimate boozehound. She’s actually stolen a plastic bottle of bourbon from the porch before.

Anyway, I love the porch. And I love sitting out there with a cookbook, my closely guarded glass of wine and the sun. Yesterday, I was flipping through Linda Fraser’s Vegetarian: The Best-Ever Recipe Collection (what a presumptuous title!) and trying to come up with something for dinner. I wasn’t exceptionally hungry, but the handsome manfriend was dying for something more substantial than some veggies. Which is why I kept coming back to the oh-so-traditional Pearl onions with peas and cream. The fresh veggies I wanted, and something we could easily pour over some cooked pasta to make a “real” meal for the man of the house.

Now, I have a HUGE problem following recipes exactly, which is probably why I’m an inexcusably horrible baker. I always want to throw in a little more pepper, a little more heat, a little more cheese and ALWAYS a little more wine. I’m always looking for an excuse to deglaze something ever since I found out what it meant (just in case…).

So I adapted the recipe a bit. I added some mushrooms and plenty of blush wine – no red or white on hand – to deglaze and. What we ended up with was a dish that was near melt-in-your-mouth velvet. It was rich, but not too heavy. The richness came mostly from the mushrooms, a bit of butter and the wine, but it didn’t make me want to heave myself to bed in a wheelbarrow. We poured it over orzo that we cooked risotto style to make it a more substantial meal as opposed to glorified side dish.

Drunk Onions with Peas and Mushrooms

8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
8 oz whole pearl onions (I bet cippolinis would be wonderful here as well), peeled
2 tbsp butter
white or blush wine
12 oz (+ a few more) frozen or fresh peas
1 cup of heavy cream
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp fresh parsley
1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
A bit of parmesan for garnish

Make sure you use a good, deep pan right from the beginning. You want to build the flavors into the cream, so you’ll use this one pan for everything. You don’t want to lose any of the richness by using multiple saute pans.

Melt 1 tbsp of the butter in your pan over medium-high heat. Just as it begins to foam, add your mushrooms and saute until they release their liquid. Remove to dish and set aside, keeping them warm. In the same pan, let the next tbsp of butter melt and foam. Add the onions, and toss to coat. Saute over medium heat until they begin to brown stirring occasionally to cook evenly.

Return the mushrooms to the pan, raise to medium-high heat and add enough wine to cover the bottom of the pan, but not the mushroom/onion mixture.  Let this simmer until the wine has reduced by half. Add the peas, 1/2 cup of water and another 1/2 cup of wine and bring to a boil. Cover, and let simmer until onions are tender and translucent. Linda Fraser’s Vegetarian said about 10 minutes, but I ended up closer to about 20. But maybe for a good reason … semy take on it after the recipe.

When onions are cooked through, there should be a little bit of water remaining at the bottom of the pan. If there isn’t, add a bit more, and if there is too much, raise the heat until the water has boiled down a bit. It should barely be visible, and just cover the bottom of the pan. Remove the pan from heat. Whisk together the cream and flour until smooth, and slowly stir into the mixture in the pan, along with the parsley. Bring back to a light simmer over very gentle heat – you don’t want to burn the cream. Let this go for about 3 or 4 minutes, or until the sauce is nice and thick.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Here, I added a quick squeeze of lemon juice to add a bit of sharpness, and I highly recommend it. As soon as the veggies were ready, we spooned some creamy orzo into bowls and ladled the creamed onions and peas (and mushrooms!) over top of the pasta, garnished with more parsley and a couple pinches of parmesan.

I love this recipe. Absolutely. I was a little hesitant, since it seemed simultaneously heavy and insubstantial as a meal. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong! It’s amazing over orzo, and I would imagine other short pastas, rice and grains. Quinoa maybe?

The only thing I would do differently, and this is more of an image thing than a taste: I would NOT cook frozen peas with the mushrooms and onions, but rather steam them separately and stir them in with the cream. As they cooked for 20 minutes in the pan with the wine and water, they took on an ugly greyish-green color. In short … they looked like canned peas. And there are very few foods I despise as much as canned peas. Next time I’ll try steaming them separately and adding them in at the end. Or I’ll try fresh peas. I think one of the reason that I had to cook everything for so long was because I didn’t give the onions a chance to really brown and cook well before adding the wine.

Despite how much I loved this recipe – I still think “The Best-Ever Recipe Collection” is a really presumptuous qualifier to tack on to an otherwise nice, well-rounded cookbook. I don’t think the recipe would have been nearly as good without the addition of wine or mushrooms, to toot my own horn. So, best-ever, maybe not. I’m willing to try more recipes though!

“I love cooking with wine—sometimes I even put it in the food.”

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