Cookbook #5: The Greens Cookbook

Adapted from Cookbook #5:  The Greens Cookbook (1987)

Recipe:  Potatoes and Chanterelles Baked in Cream

I am surprised to be turning to this cookbook so soon after cooking from Fields of Greens, its sequel.  I had plans for the carnitas from another cookbook (don't worry, I will be making those soon enough, my sweet carnivore friends).  But then my husband went mushroom hunting this weekend.  We have a friend who is quite the mycologist, and it has been pouring down rain here for the past week--prime mushroom sprouting weather.  So much so,  hunting for mushrooms seems a misnomer.  Tripping over them seems more like it.  On Saturday, the skies cleared long enough for them to forage for dinner while I gleefully remained inside our house.  I am enamored with the idea of tumbling down 45-degree declines of recently-rained-on hillsides, but really only in theory, not in practice.  They returned, albeit a bit sodden and muddy, with pounds of chanterelles and black trumpets.

Thus, I was obligated to make this recipe, seeing as I was still dry and clean.

It's hard to believe that this cookbook came out 23 years ago (and it's in a new release, hence the fancy new cover on  Deborah Madison is the queen bee of vegetarian cooking, and she too has put in her time at Chez Panisse, and she opened the Greens restaurant before Annie Somerville took over as chef.  From her new hive in Santa Fe, she continues her work to educate others to grow, cook, and eat locally, and she writes with startling clarity and sensitivity about the joy of knowing what you ate and where it came from.  For her, food is more than sustenance.  Or perhaps, better put, it is the most important sustenance, as it sustains not only our physical lives but our emotional ones, too.

And so, this particular cookbook has supplied such nourishment for me as well.  As I mentioned before, my dear friend in graduate school gave this cookbook to me about 12 years ago--I believe as reward for all of the cooking I was teaching myself to do.  I remember one night, I wanted to make lasagna and I got carried away, as I often do when it comes to cooking, and made three different vegetarian lasagnas from three different cookbooks, including this one.  As you can imagine, of course, then I had to throw a party, inviting my friends to sample and judge each of the dishes.  I cannot remember which recipe won, but both the Spinach, Cheese and Tomato Lasagna (p. 168) and the Mushroom Lasagna (p. 186) from this edition are quite wonderful, filled with multiple steps, and well worth all the time. This book then traveled from Utah to Colorado and now to California with me, remaining a connection back to this dear friend, who probably has even forgotten she passed it on to me.  We don't stay in touch as much or as often as we should, but no matter the recipe I make from this book, I think of her and love her for all the joy, sincerity, and laughter she brought into my life for two years as we lived in that little yellow house with tulips, a cherry tree, and no vacuum cleaner.

Okay, let's get back on track here:   the recipe recommends serving this "earthy, rich dish" with a salad of bitter winter greens or with a light, acidic soup (such as Red Onion and Red Wine Soup with Tomatoes and Thyme (page 106, and thus not included here)).  So we did just that (soup, not salad).  Now I am not sure which lunatic planet I decided to inhabit on a Tuesday night, but I decided to take on not one but two Greens recipes:  and on this planet it has taken me hours to make a dinner, but what a great Greens-restaurant-inspired planet we inhabit.  Soup:  light, acidic and quite phenomenal to be exact.  Potatoes and chanterelles in cream (people, did you notice this!  in cream!): everything you would imagine a locally foraged mushroom doused in cream (CREAM!) would be.   Sigh.

4-6 Servings

2 pounds new or russet potatoes
1 pound chanterelles  (in the head note, they say that this is a rather generous amount; you can use 1/2 the amount of chanterelles, they say, and still get a pretty yummy result)
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1.  Peel the potatoes and slice them into rounds 1/4 inch thick.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add 1-tablespoon salt, and the potatoes.  Return the water to a boil and cook the potatoes for 2 minutes.  Drain them and set them aside.

2.  Clean the chanterelles, if they need it, with a soft mushroom brush or a damp cloth.  Slice them into pieces about 1/4 inch thick.  Heat the butter in a wide pan, then add the mushrooms, the garlic, and a little salt, and cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes.

3.   Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly butter a gratin dish.  Layer half the potatoes and season them with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Add the mushrooms; then cover them with the remaining slices of potatoes.  Overlap the top layer, if you like, to make them look pretty, and season again with salt and pepper.

4.  Pour the cream over the top and bake for 40 minutes, or until the potatoes have absorbed most of the cream and are covered with a golden crust.


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