Comfort food, this time with umami.
I wanted to make Porcini Gravy with the dried porcini mushrooms my husband brought back from a recent trip to Florence. Plus I had some leftover mashed potatoes in the fridge. And as I spun around the circular shelf in my cabinet, I spied some green lentils. I suddenly envisioned a lentil pie, with mashed potatoes on top and porcini gravy running over the top.
Now, if last month was Chipotle Month here at WDIK?, this month will be porcini month. There are similarities—both chipotles and porcinis take your tastebuds a step beyond the plain old. (To put it another way, chipotle is to jalapeno peppers what dried porcinis are to mushrooms.
Porcinis are in season now in Tuscany, where they grow wild. It’s easy to find them here, at nearly every supermarket, in their dried form. I’ve never seen them fresh, presumably because they don’t travel well. But dried porcinis, as well as being remarkably versatile, have a unique, woodsy flavour that livens up any recipe.
I call this a lentil pie, since it's very similar to shepherd's pie. (The word pie in Britian typically means a savoury pie, not sweet.) It's really more like a casserole, however. I baked it in a small casserole dish, just big enough for two. You can increase the amounts accordingly if you're feeding more than two, or want leftovers. The gravy was plenty for three or four servings, so you don't need to increase that.
I steamed some broccoli to go alongside. The entire meal was surprisingly elegant, yet never veered from the realm of comfort food. And with three different kinds of umami going on, my tastebuds were happy as well. (See how that word umami keeps appearing everywhere?)
Lentil Pie with Porcini Mushroom Gravy
This makes enough for two generous servings for two people. To make more, adjust the amounts accordingly.
Note: before you assemble the casserole, begin soaking the porcinis in boiling water. Let them sit while you do everything else, then, using the same pan you sauted the onions in, you can make the gravy while the casserole bakes. You can use half the onion for the lentils, and save the other half for the porcini gravy, remembering to slice it instead of chop.
½ cup green lentils, rinsed
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon salt
1 carrot, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
freshly ground pepper, to taste
½ teaspoon dried ground thyme
1 tablespoon fresh sage, snipped
1 small sprig of fresh rosemary, or 1 teaspoon dried, snipped
1 cup mashed potatoes
Bring a small pot of water to boil and add lentils. Add bay leaves and carrot. Reduce heat and cook lentils over low heat in just enough water to cover the top, adding water if needed, until done, about 25 minutes. Remove bay leaves, and if there's a lot of water left, drain some of it out. (The water from the lentils adds flavor, so try not to have too much left in the pan. You'll have to watch them carefully so they don't dry out and burn.) Mash lentils with a fork or wooden spoon against the sides of the pan, just enough so that they stick together. They don't need to be completely mushy.
Meanwhile, sauté chopped onion and garlic in olive oil, adding black pepper and herbs as you stir the onions. Cook over low heat for 10 minutes.
Add the onion mixture to the lentils and stir to combine. Place in a small casserole dish or a loaf pan that has been treated with cooking spray.
Spread the mashed potatoes on top, and sprinkle with paprika if desired.
Place in a heated 350/180C oven and bake for 30 minutes.
½ cup dried porcinis (about 10 ounces by weight)
½ onion, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons dry sherry
¼ cup soy cream
salt and pepper to taste
Soak the dried porcini in enough boiling water to make 2 cups. (I use a glass 2-cup measuring cup.) Set aside, and let soak for 30 minutes.
Over medium heat, sauté the onions in the olive oil for about 10 minutes, until they’re starting to brown.
Remove the porcinis from the liquid and chop them into ½ inch pieces.
Add the chopped porcini and 1 cup of the liquid to the onions, and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch (cornflour) with the sherry. Pour into the pan with the porcinis and onions. Stir the mixture while it thickens, adding the rest of the porcini liquid and the soy cream at the same time.
When the gravy is heated through, remove from heat and serve immediately.