Shake took a trip to the Big Island and came back with goodies. Two pounds of fresh mushrooms from Hamakua Heritage Farm, to be exact. In case you’re wondering, two pounds of shroomage equals three days of mushroom dinners.

An assortment of Pioppini (the brown ones) and Gray Oyster mushrooms from Hamakua Heritage Farm in Laupāhoehoe on the Big Island. © 2013 Sugar + Shake

Hamakua Heritage Farm is located in Laupāhoehoe, where they have an enormous facility to grow the mushrooms indoors. It’s a completely contained environment; Shake got a tour of the farm and said he had to wear sterile coveralls before going in among the mushrooms.

The farm grows four types of mushrooms: Gray Oyster, Pepeiao (also called Wood Ear; “pepeiao” is “ear” in Hawaiian), Pioppini (also called Black Poplar; I’ve seen it labeled Hon Shimeiji in local stores, too) and Ali‘i (also called King Oyster or King Trumpet). By the way, while looking up the alternate names for these mushrooms, I came across this super helpful mushroom primer on CHOW.

Shake brought two big bags of mushrooms home, filled with two types of fungus. The Pioppini mushrooms (below) have what the Hamakua Heritage Farm website calls an “intense forest flavor.” They do, indeed, have a distinctly earthy flavor.

Pioppini mushrooms have what the Hamakua Heritage Farm website calls an “intense forest flavor.” They do, indeed, have a distinctly earthy flavor. © 2013 Sugar + Shake

We also had Gray Oyster mushrooms, which are aptly named — they do have a faintly shellfish-y flavor.

The Gray Oyster mushrooms are aptly named — they do have a faintly shellfish-y flavor. © 2013 Sugar + Shake

In addition to the ‘shrooms, he also brought back a half-dozen fresh eggs from another farm he visited. I was concerned that TSA might confiscate them, but they made it home safely. They don’t have anything to do with this post, but aren’t they pretty?

Not mushrooms. Shake also stopped at another farm where they gave him some freshly laid eggs. © 2013 Sugar + Shake

With two pounds of fungal abundance that was already a few days old, I had to quickly figure out what to make that would use it all up. It’s been chilly, so I put mushroom soup on the agenda. I found a recipe for Creamy Mushroom Soup in one of my go-to cookbooks, Williams-Sonoma Cooking at Home. I love this book. It doesn’t have any photos, but it’s great as a reference for basic, essential recipes.

Italian-style Creamy Mushroom Soup. No actual cream in the soup. © 2013 Sugar + Shake

The cookbook contained a variation on the recipe for “Italian-Style” Creamy Mushroom Soup, and I chose to go with that. I felt like we’d been eating too much rich food lately, and this variation eliminated the heavy cream in the standard recipe. It still had plenty of creamy texture, and I felt much better about that. (Not that it turned it into an ultra-healthy dish…there’s still nearly an entire stick of butter in it.)

Ingredients for Mushroom & Beef Pot Pies. © 2013 Sugar + Shake

Sticking with the warm-and-homey theme, I made Mushroom & Beef Pot Pies the next night. (Recipe at the end of this post.) Normally the puff pastry top is puffier, but I was getting very hungry and impatient, so I took them out a bit early.

Braised Beef and Mushroom Pot Pie filling. © 2013 Sugar + Shake

Beef & Mushroom Pot Pie. © 2013 Sugar + Shake

“Are you sick of mushrooms or are you down for a third ‘shroom dinner?” I texted Shake. Honestly, I was getting a little tired of them, but he was game, so on to our third day of feasting on fungus.

Mushroom Ragout with Poached Egg. Adapted from “Plenty” by Yotam Ottolenghi. © 2013 Sugar + Shake

My sister-in-law gave me a copy of Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi for Christmas, and I’ve been flipping through it and trying out a few recipes. (More on Plenty in future Cooking by the Book posts.) It’s a veggie-focused cookbook, so I had several choices when it came to mushrooms. I chose to adapt Ottolenghi’s Mushroom Ragout with Poached Egg.

As it’s written in the book, it’s a more complicated recipe — Ottolenghi wants you to make your own vegetable stock. I skipped that part and instead used Williams-Sonoma’s Vegetable Stock Concentrate. I also added some crisped prosciutto (baked in the oven) and chopped arugula and used olive bread instead of sourdough for the croutons. This turned out to be a very earthy dish, with the flavor of the Pioppini mushrooms really coming through.

Conclusions: Fresh mushrooms are awesome. I want to visit the mushroom farm. After three days of fungus consumption, I reach my limit.

Here’s a recipe that works well with any type of mushrooms you like.

Mushroom & Braised Beef Pot Pie

Serve in 10 oz. (makes 4) or 6 oz. (makes 6-8) ramekins.

  • 1 – 1½  lb. beef (chuck, boneless shortribs or stew beef), cut into ½-inch chunks
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Flour
  • Olive oil
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, rough chopped
  • 1 large shallot, diced
  • ½ medium onion, diced
  • 1 lb. mushrooms (an assortment is nice), chopped into large pieces/chunks
  • Approx. 2 cups mushroom and/or beef stock*
  • Approx. 1 cup red wine
  • Fresh thyme, about 1-2 tablespoons
  • 2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed according to box instructions
  • 1 egg
  • Optional: 1-2 tablespoons beef demi-glace

Pre-heat oven to 350°. Make sure to adjust the racks so there’s room for a Dutch oven to fit.

Season the beef with salt and pepper and lightly coat with flour. (I like to put a half-cup or so of flour in a veggie bag and shake the beef.) Heat oil in a Dutch oven on medium-high heat on the stovetop. Sear the beef in batches — don’t overcrowd the pot — on all sides until crusty and brown and set aside. Add more oil if needed.

Add garlic, shallots and onion to the pot and brown. Deglaze pot with a little broth. Add mushrooms; cook until they begin to soften. Add beef (and any beef liquid that may have dripped out) to the pot, along with stock and wine — enough to just about cover the beef and vegetables.

If using, add a tablespoon of beef demi-glace and stir in. Sprinkle thyme, reserving a couple teaspoons for garnish later, and mix everything together. Cover and transfer to oven.

Every 45 minutes or so, check to make sure the liquid hasn’t reduced too much. Add more wine or stock if needed. After an hour and a half, if you would like a beefier flavor, add another tablespoon of demi-glace.

Simmer until beef is tender, about 3-4 hours. Remove from oven and raise oven temp to 400°.

Cut puff pastry to cover ramekins — make sure to cut pieces large enough to overhang the edge; I simply cut large squares — and whisk egg in a small bowl.

Ladle beef and mushroom mixture into ramekins — about ¾ full — and cover with puff pastry. Brush with egg — this will make the tops nice and shiny golden-brown. Cut a few slits in the top to vent. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until golden and puffy.

Garnish with a sprinkle of fresh thyme leaves before serving.

Beef & Mushroom Pot Pie. © 2013 Sugar + Shake

*I happened to have a bunch of leftover mushroom stock from making the Creamy Mushroom Soup, so this was a perfect way to use that up. If you don’t have any, beef stock is totally fine.

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