While our resident fungi-hater - our younger son - was off at school this Fall, Jake and I enjoyed lots and lots of mushroom dishes. Inspired by The Last Restaurant in Paris by Lily Graham, I made a Mushroom Bourguignon.
On the Page
Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres to read. And, for some reason, I have read a lot of novels that are set during World War II in Paris. The Last Restaurant in Paris by Lily Graham dives into the topic of collaborators versus the resistance and broaches the subject of someone who might have posed as one to actually accomplish something as the other! While this is completely fictional, I do wonder if anything like this ever happened; it seems possible, tragically and heroically possible.
This is a story told from dual points of view and timelines: Sabine in the 1980s and Gilbert in the 1940s. However, both timelines have Marianne Blanchet as the focal point. Sabine is Marianne's granddaughter while Gilbert was one of Marianne's employees when she appeared to be a French collaborator who, then, used her restaurant, Luberon, to poison her Nazi customers. Unfortunately, a couple of local townspeople were also among her victims and Marianne was convicted and vilified as a collaborator.
As the novel progresses, we learn the story of Luberon, Marianne's lineage in a family of Provençal cooks, and unravel the mystery of who Marianne really was. She was a fascinating, complex character. And the story was well-written.
I was inspired into the kitchen by this passage. "'Have you seen this?' asked Gilbert, making his way into the kitchen, where Marianne was busy chopping up vegetables. A mushroom bourguignon was simmering on the stove. There were baskets overflowing with vegetables: tomatoes, aubergines, cauliflower, potatoes, turnips – seeing such a bounty, it was hard to imagine they were in the midst of war. Except that, of course, it all came from the invaders. Gifts from Luberon’s admirers, chiefly Otto Busch and his friends. The dishes she made for the locals included a lot of legumes and other starchy carbs as opposed to meat; it was designed to be cheap and filling. Not that any locals had come by just yet, even with the extra rations and discounts" (pg. 52).
The mushroom bourguignon was a dish that Marianne learned from her grandmother and brought to Paris from Provençe. Since the dish played such an important role in the book, I just had to make it.
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons butter, softened
2 pounds mushrooms, sliced (I used a mixture of brown cremini, trumpet, oyster, shiitake, and chanterelle)
2 carrots, diced (approximately 1/2 cup)
1 cup onion, peeled and diced
3 to 4 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
1 cup full-bodied red wine
2 cups broth (beef broth is traditional, but I used vegetable to keep it vegetarian)
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1-1/2 Tablespoons flour
Also needed: egg noodles or mashed potatoes for serving
Melt 1 Tablespoon butter in 1 Tablespoon olive oil in the bottom of a heavy-bottom pan or Dutch oven. Add in the mushrooms and cook until they darken but before they start to release their liquid, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Remove them from the pan.
Add in another Tablespoon of olive oil and stir in the carrots, onion, thyme as well as some salt and pepper. Toss to coat with the oil, then cook until the onions translucent and beginning to brown, approximately 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and heat until just aromatic, approximately 1 to 2 minutes.
Pour the wine into the pot. Bring to a boil and simmer until reduced by half. Whisk in the tomato paste and pour in the broth.
Stir the mushrooms back into the pot. Reduce the temperature to a simmer and cook until the mushrooms are tender, approximately 20 minutes.
Melt the last Tablespoon of butter and whisk in the flour to create a roux. Stir the roux into the pot and simmer for another 10 minutes. The sauce should be thickened; if too liquidy for your taste, raise the heat and let liquid reduce to desired thickness.
To serve, spoon the stew over a bowl of egg noodles or mashed potatoes. Enjoy!