For many years, one of my culinarily gifted aunties made this dish regularly for Christmas celebrations. As a youngster, I didn’t quite understand the draw of these richly flavored sliced mushrooms but we kids had fun holding our faces over the pan as they cooked, pretending to get woozy from the wine vapors.
Now I fully appreciate their deep, earthy flavor and realise that wine vapor just isn’t the way to go for optimal holiday wooziness. So my recommendation is that you provide yourself two bottles of wine for this recipe: one for the mushrooms and one for yourself (and loved ones…?).
I suggest a deep red wine for this recipe, like a Burgundy or Cabernet Sauvignon. Slow cooking the mushrooms in a buttery wine reduction imparts the darkest, most red of flavors, so it’s good to start out with a rich wine that lets you know it means business from the very first sip.
1 bottle (2 bottles?) red wine
2 pounds mushrooms, sliced
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
4 large cloves garlic, sliced
1 Tsp dried thyme or 2-3 Tsp fresh thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
The mushrooms I generally use for this recipe are chestnut mushrooms, which are typically the variety sold simply as “brown mushrooms.” They are nutty in flavor and have a density that holds up well to lots of cooking and stirring.
Heat a deep frying pan over a medium heat and brown the butter. When it’s a beautiful chestnut color add the garlic, but you must avoid browning it (put down your glass and pay attention for this part) so stir continuously until it’s soft (about a minute) then immediately add the mushrooms and stir to evenly coat with the butter. Salt thoroughly with a teaspoon’s worth, then cover for about 10 minutes and allow the moisture in the mushroom to begin to heat and evaporate. Mushrooms are mostly water, so the idea is to remove their water content and replace it with wine. Salting and covering the pan causes them to leach moisture, so after the 10 minutes, uncover and let all the initial water evaporate.
Right when the pan is just dry but before anything begins to burn or brown, pour in a cup of wine, add the thyme and turn the heat up to medium-hot. The wine should start bubbling pretty quickly. Leave it uncovered until it too just evaporates, then add another cup and turn the heat down to medium-low. Continue this process until all your wine is gone (sad face) and your mushrooms are deeply purple.
Now some folks like their mushrooms quite soft, but I prefer mine a little chewy. If you think you’re a soft mushroom kind of person, now is the time to eat. For optimal chewiness, keep cooking your mushrooms until they begin to shrivel a little — but on a low heat so they don’t burn. You can add a little more butter to the pan if it’s a little sticky from the wine reduction. Only you can be the judge of the perfectly chewy mushroom, so perform taste tests often.
Once they’re done to your liking, sprinkle them on lamb or beef roasts, stir through mashed potatoes or yams, or pluck each slice out of the frying pan with your fingers and savor with that well-planned extra bottle of delicious red wine.