As a teen and young adult, I enjoyed mushrooms as a tasty, low-calorie topping on salads and baked potatoes. But I was unaware of their nutritional value. In fact, the physician father of one of my grad school roommates was concerned about my nutritional intake and expressly mentioned my mainstay mushrooms as nutritionally vacuous. But that was quite a while back.
We now know that, far from being lightweights of the food world, these unassuming toadstools are nutritional heavyweights, not to mention tasty and beautifully textured. They are indeed devoid of fat and cholesterol and very low in calories, but they contain protein, fiber, a number of B vitamins plus C and D, chlorine, potassium, selenium and more. Says Ryan Stabb, owner of Capstone Mushroom, “They have all sorts of novel compounds that can’t be found elsewhere.”
With a flavor and texture that some liken to shellfish, which is a magical pairing with tarragon and cream, I revisited a recipe I had created long ago, substituting mushrooms for shrimp and tweaking here and there. Butter and cream are balanced and enhanced by a little acidic brightness, so be sure to include the lemon zest garnish.
Mushrooms in Tarragon Cream
½ sheet Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets (naturally plant-based), cut crosswise into 3/4-inch wide strips
6 tablespoons butter (dairy or plant-based; I prefer Miyoko’s)
4 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
¼ cup finely chopped shallots
4 cups mixed mushrooms, coarsely chopped (I used Blue-Gray Oyster, Lion’s Main and King Trumpet)
Pinch sea salt
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon leaves, plus about 4 large stems of tarragon leaves
1 cup half-and-half (dairy or unsweetened plant-based, like Ripple or Silk brand)
2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 4 teaspoons half-and-half
2 teaspoons cream sherry
Garnishes: fresh lemon zest, tarragon sprigs, and optional shallot rings
Accompaniment: Roasted tri-color carrots or asparagus
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lay strips of puff pastry on baking sheet lined with Silpat or parchment paper. Bake 15 minutes or until puffed and golden brown.
Meanwhile, heat large skillet over medium heat. Add butter and, when melted, add garlic and shallots, stirring and sauteing for about 30 seconds. Adjust heat as necessary to avoid browning. Stir in mushrooms, sea salt, and chopped tarragon, and continue sauteing until mushrooms release their moisture. Add stems of tarragon leaves and half-and-half and cook, stirring, until mixture starts to thicken. Remove tarragon stems (rinse, dry, and use in another dish), add cornstarch mixture and cream sherry, and continue cooking and stirring for a couple more minutes.
Divide among 4 small bowls and serve, garnished as desired, with a couple each puff pastry strips and roasted carrots or asparagus.
Betsy DiJulio is a fulltime art teacher in the upper school at Norfolk Academy, an artist, freelance writer, food blogger and author of the cookbook, The Blooming Platter: A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes. Learn more at TheBloomingPlatter.com