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Mushroom Alfredo

November 30, 2010

I’ve been bracing myself for this. For at least a week, we’ve had frost every morning. A few days ago, the river started to freeze over. Yesterday, icicles on the windows. Then this morning, it finally happened:

Ok, so it still has some novelty-value. Where I grew up, snow wasn’t just precipitation, it was a whole other planet. People take long car trips to get to “The Snow.” They pass down snow-suits from child to child for decades, since the suit is only worn once a year. The experience of bundling up for the snow is like putting on a space suit for us – we’re astronauts stepping into the dangerous, thrilling unknown. We can barely move for all the layers. Still, the excitement is kept alive by the knowledge that at the end of the weekend, we’ll pile back into the car, drive home and resume our t-shirt regimen. The Snow is a nice place to visit, but we wouldn’t want to live there.

I’m not sure I’m ready for this “real winter” business. Maybe I’d feel better, though, if I ate something with butter and cheese. Something that falls into my dad’s category of “food that goes splat.”

This dish was not only a great way to use up some leftover Thanksgiving ingredients, it was a rich, comforting bowl of winter-be-damned.

Remember when I said I could drink this mushroom gravy with a straw? (It’s cool if you don’t, there are a lot of gravies I could drink with a straw.) This sauce is a slight variation on that recipe, with parmesan and fresh thyme.

Butter, plenty of it, with some thickly-sliced baby bellas. You can really use any mushroom you like here. This is my attempt at an action-shot, but the mushrooms wanted to stay in the bowl.

Add garlic, cayenne and fresh thyme. Your nose will thank you. I’ve been on a thyme kick lately – it’s just so autumnal.

Add some flour to form a paste, stir until you don’t see any more white floury bits. Cook for a minute or so.

Stir in some stock or broth. (Note for re-heating: this will solidify when cool, so add a little water when you re-heat it.)

Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, then turn down the heat and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Throw in a bunch of grated parmesan. You can always add liquid (more stock or pasta-cooking water) if it gets too thick. Keep cooking until it’s the consistency you like.

Then add cooked pasta and toss it all together. Sprinkle some fresh thyme over the top. Eat it with a big spinach salad, and don’t look out the window!

Mushroom Linguine Alfredo

Takes about 30 minutes
Serves 4-6

¼ Cup (½ stick) butter
½ pound brown mushrooms, thickly sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme, plus some extra for garnish
⅛ – ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (depending on your taste and heat of the spice)
¼ cup flour
1 ½ cups chicken stock  (or more if the sauce is too thick)
½ – ¾ cup grated parmesan
Salt and Pepper to taste
10-12 oz (dry weight) linguine, cooked

1. Melt butter in a large skillet or pot. Add mushrooms and saute for about 5 minutes until the liquid seeps out of the mushrooms.
2. Add garlic, thyme and cayenne and cook for a couple of minutes.
3. Add flour, stirring until all flour is absorbed and you have a thick paste. Cook for another minute.
4. Add stock, stirring to combine. Bring to a boil, turn the heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes until the mushrooms are cooked-through and the sauce is thickened. (This is also a good time to drop the pasta in boiling water.)
5. Add parmesan, salt and pepper, and stir until smooth. (Add more stock or pasta water if the sauce is too thick.)
6. Add cooked pasta to the sauce and stir to combine.
7. Top with fresh thyme and serve hot.

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