Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Umami and Potatoes

This dinner was inspired by the tupperware full of mushroom gravy I found in my freezer, and the fact that a short-lived interest in making martinis at home (seriously, how can it be so tricky?) had landed me with a bottle of vermouth.  The result?  A savory, meat-and-potatoes kind of feast that even this girl's husband (what?!) would probably like.

I cook this kind of food so rarely, it's always a bit like diving into some unfamiliar ethnic cuisine.  "Umm...Thyme?  Sage?  I think that's right... what the fuck is marjoram?"  I've realized I'm some sort of acidity monster, and this meal felt almost cloyingly savory-meaty, redeemed by some lemon juice in the greens and the mushrooms as well as the vermouth.  I wonder what it is that determines these preferences.  Is it genetic?  Something that's happened biologically as a result of earlier dietary/lifestyle choices?  Or is it more aesthetic?  But then, how many factors contribute to one's aesthetic values?  Perhaps my investment in balance, brightness, dryness, and bitterness even have something to do with my personality, or my image of my self?  All I know is, give me the hoppiest IPA you've got, or a gin-and-soda with lime; I'd rather be sober than drink a hefeweizen or a chardonnay.

Overall, though, this was a delicious, easy feast, especially since the gravy was already made.  It tastes like Thanksgiving.
Breaded Tempeh with Sauteed Mushrooms, Roasted New Potatoes with Mushroom Gravy, and Sauteed Collards

The tempeh-mushroom combo was somewhat inspired by the tofu piccata I made last spring.  Going off this recipe for breaded tempeh, I steamed the tempeh 10 minutes, then dipped it in soymilk and panko breadcrumbs (successively) and broiled it a few minutes on each side.  For the mushrooms, I sauteed 1/2 chopped onion in olive oil, then added 3 cloves minced garlic, then 8 oz sliced mushrooms, then a pinch each sage, thyme, and black pepper; I deglazed the pot with a lot of vermouth, then let it simmer; added a little stock, and simmered until mushrooms were tender and most of the liquid was gone; then finished with a squeeze of lemon juice.

The collards were sauteed in olive oil with onion and garlic; then I added stock (instead of tamari--for that crazy "European" flavor) and finally lemon juice.

Finally, the potatoes, which were topped with mushroom gravy, were washed and cut into wedges, then boiled 5-10 min in salted water (until slightly pokeable with a fork); tossed with olive oil, rosemary, salt, and black pepper; and broiled several minutes on each side until golden brown and crispy.  I pre-boiled the potatoes so as to have the oven on for as short a time as possible in the heat!


Helen said...

My aunt Betty is a psychologist whose speciality is the psychology of food. Apparently you can do tests to determine what kind of "taster" you are--if you are a "supertaster," you tend to like the sweet, and "nontasters" like everything (and so on, it is more complex than I am making it out to be). She is thinking of writing a general audience book about this--she and her grad students not only read and write and talk, they cook and taste, and determine which recipes would please the most people..fascinating stuff.

Julia said...

This sounds fascinating - I remember doing a test in bio class in high school where some people could taste a particular substance and others couldn't....It was apparently genetic?

Julia said...

I think it was this?

Helen said...

Yes, I think that is it. Apparently it is genetic. Betty wants to do a cookbook based on this sort of thing--I think it could sell!

janet @ the taste space said...

I agree - I don't cook much like this, either... and only recently discovered marjoram! Only because my landlords left me a bunch of spices and I didn't have the heart to throw it away since it still smelled fresh. ;) This looks great, especially for a fall meal. :)