Savory Mushroon Cobbler
"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." (Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene 2)— Shakespeare
How appropriate that we reflect for a moment on the words of Shakespeare, one of Great Britain’s most well-known and prolific authors. In this infamous phrase Sir William is telling us that the content of a person (or thing) is more important than the label.
“Ay, there’s the rub”. So what are we talking about?
The cobbler is a traditional dish in both the United States and the United Kingdom, although the meaning of the term is quite different in each country.
As stated so very eloquently by the Dowager Countess Violet Grantham:
“Things are different in America, they live in Wig Wams.” (Downton Abbey,
Season 1, episode 4)
In the United States the cobbler is a deep-dish fruit dessert with a fruit filling poured over a batter that rises when baked. In the United Kingdom cobblers are typically filled with meat and vegetables, covered with a biscuit-like topping and served as a main course.
Perhaps I should mention that the cobbler would not have been recognized by Lord Grantham as anything other than one who repairs shoes. But the cobbler was well known in the peasant kitchen of "use it up, wear it out, make it do." Pastry-chef skills and abilities were not needed to prepare a simple main dish cobbler of meats and vegetables crowned with bits of dough, and the filling could be assembled from whatever was available in the larder.
I have updated this concept to a vegetarian meal--not only because I prefer a meatless meal, but also because preparing this dish with mushrooms is less costly and requires much less time than a meaty-meal.
Equipment you will need
- small saucepan with lid
- small bowl (for soaking dried mushrooms)
- large bowl to place under colander
- Dutch oven
- medium bowl for preparing pastry
- pastry blender
- Four 8-oz ramekins
- Rimmed baking sheet
- parchment paper
Ingredients for the pastry topping
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp. rosemary or thyme, dried
- 1/3 cup butter, cold
- 3/4 cup sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
- 1 cup buttermilk
Instructions for the pastry topping
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Line the baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper.
- In medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, garlic powder, salt, and dried rosemary or thyme leaves.
- Cut in cheese and shortening until crumbly. Add buttermilk; stir until just moistened.
- Drop onto parchment lined baking sheet into 8 equal mounds.
- Bake for12 minutes or until golden brown.
- Set aside and let cool while making mushroom filling.
Ingredients for mushroom filling
- 1 pound Yukon gold potatoes
- 0.5 oz. (14 g) dried porcini mushrooms
- 1/2 cup boiling water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, diced (about 2 cups)
- 1 pound crimini mushrooms, sliced (about 4 cups)
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 cup dry sherry
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 tsp. white balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
- 8 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (2 tablespoons for each ramekin)
Instructions for the mushroom stew filling
- Place the dried porcini mushrooms in the small bowl. Cover with boiling water and let stand for 30 minutes.
- While the dried mushrooms are steeping in the boiling water, place the Yukon gold potatoes in a medium sized saucepan with lid. Cover with water. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat to low. Simmer, lid slightly ajar, until tender. (Insert a sharp paring knife into a potato. If there is resistance, the potato needs to cook a bit more. If it slips in easily, the potato is cooked). The potatoes should be fully cooked after about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, drain, and set aside.
- After the 30 minutes of steeping time have elapsed, drain the porcini mushrooms by placing them in a colander set over a bowl. Press on them with a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. Reserve the liquid that has accumulated in the bowl and chop the drained mushrooms and set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in the bottom of a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the onion and sauté 10 minutes or until the onions are softened and begin to caramelize (turn golden brown). Add the sliced crimini mushrooms and the reconstituted porcini mushrooms and sauté until the liquid is mostly absorbed, about 10 minutes.
- Stir in the flour and smoked paprika. Add the sherry to the pan and simmer 1 minute.
- Stir in the reserved mushroom soaking liquid and the broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the heavy cream, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper.
- Stir and simmer over medium-low heat until all is blended and the sauce is thickened--about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Chop the cooked/drained/cooled potatoes and stir into the mushroom cream filling.
What makes this recipe work?
The typical peasant stew (the filling under the pastry) would have consisted of an assortment of vegetables and chunks of protein cloaked in a thickened meaty gravy. The meat would probably have been a bit of beef, mutton, or kidney. What can we do in the kitchen to create the sensory taste of meat and still create a vegetarian meal? The key to the puzzle is understanding the science of taste.
There are five distinct tastes that the human tongue recognizes--sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami.
The first four you are probably familiar with:
- sweet is a pleasurable sensation produced by sugars.
- Sourness is the detection of acidity--the most common foods that contain the sour taste are citrus fruits, some melons, and some unripened fruits.
- Saltiness is mostly from the presence of sodium.
- A bitter taste is usually deemed unpleasant or disagreeable. Black coffee and unsweetened chocolate fall into this category.
And then there is umami. Umami is a Japanese word for "pleasant savory taste"--a MEATY taste. There are several natural, non-meat foods that have a umami flavor--tomatoes, mushrooms, soy, potatoes, carrots, and Parmesan cheese.
So, if you create this stew for your family, you will be giving them an uber-umami taste without meat.
How to assemble the ramekins
- If you wish you can cover and refrigerate the mushroom filling for one day and cover and store the biscuits in a cool, dry place. When ready to assemble:
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Spoon the mushroom filling into the ramekins. If the filling was chilled in the refrigerator reheat before ladling into ramekins.
- Place the filled ramekins on a baking sheet. This will help you move them in and out of the oven safely.
- Crumble the biscuits. You will need only 2. Save the remaining biscuits for another use. Place about 1/2 cup of crumbled biscuits on top of each of the the mushroom filled ramekins.
- Top with the grated Parmesan cheese.
- Bake about 10 minutes or until biscuit crumble and cheese begin to brown
NOTE: Using individual ramekins means that this dish can be prepared ahead of time and then quickly assembled and baked for dinner.
© 2014 Linda Lum