I've always been an adventurous traveler. Plop me down in the center of a major city and I'll have its public transportation system figured out in a jiffy. The little, well off the beaten track restaurant? Yes, leave it to me and I'll find it. So this normally made of steel woman became absolute mush when it came to my first time purchasing produce at an outdoor Parisian market. If I was going to stay in an apartment instead of a hotel, I knew shopping at one of these outdoor venues would complete the whole “pretend I'm a Parisian for a week” experience.
While tourists do visit the markets, few actually shop for ingredients to prepare a full meal. So the markets basically cater to residents. For the most part, you have to interact with the vendors since there is very little self serve. While I remember being excited for my first market outing, I also had a huge pit in my stomach. With my limited French, who knew what would end up in my basket! The produce was my biggest concern as everything had to be measured by weight, nothing came prepackaged. Or so I thought …
As I approached one vendor, a huge sigh of relief washed over me. Glistening on the corner of this huge table filled with every vegetable you could ever want were the exact mushrooms I wanted to cook, all neatly packaged in a little basket for one little price! No need for me to figure out kilos or grams. I smiled so brightly that the vendor was happy to assist me in his broken English and my broken French through the rest of my shopping list. A mushroom got me a free lesson in weight conversions and piece of mind to continue with my adventurous ways!
Enjoy this master recipe for perfect French Sautéed Mushrooms courtesy of that very gentlemanly vendor who shared this with me when I returned to him a few days later.
French Sautéed Mushrooms
If you have a good solid base of sound food science behind your recipes, you can create so many meals based on a few techniques. My vendor shared the most perfect way to sauté mushrooms every time so they really brown and do not release water. This technique ensures golden brown, rich tasting mushrooms. After all, isn't that why we eat them?
12 ounces mixed wild mushrooms*
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter (preferably French)
Sea or kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
1. Clean the mushrooms with a paper towel or lightly with a mushroom brush. Remove the woody ends. Slice the mushrooms thickly.
2. Heat a large skillet, preferably cast iron on high heat. When hot, swirl in the butter and olive oil until butter sizzles. Add one third of the mushrooms to the pan, spread in one layer and leave undisturbed for 2 minutes. Then using a spoon, sauté the mushrooms for about 4-5 minutes until nicely browned.
3. With a slotted spoon, remove the mushrooms to a bowl. Add the next third of mushrooms repeating the same process adding additional butter and oil only if necessary. If you add too much, the mushrooms will become greasy. Finish with the last third of mushrooms.
4. Season with salt and pepper and now you have the base for so many recipes. Add these to omelettes, serve on top of thick slices of French bread, toss with pasta or just enjoy a bowlful!
* I like a mixture of different wild mushrooms. These cook up drier than regular button and fortunately French markets are full of them! Cut them thickly for best results.
Robyn Webb is an award-winning cookbook author, culinary instructor and nutritionist. She has learned the metric system very well. She can be reached on twitter at Twitter.com/robynwebb.
(Image Credits: [ eotc ], all other photos by author)