Chocolate truffles. Cheesy croque-monsieurs. Buttery mashed potatoes. Macaroni and cheese (for two meals in one day). Okay, so my holiday diet hasn't been what you might call stellar. But didn't I read somewhere that laughing burns calories? Boy do I hope that's true, because it might help even things out. This holiday was big―as in, Brady-Bunch-style big, Times-Square-style big, opening-ceremonies-of-the-Olympics-style big―and very boisterous. Five days, four generations, three rowdy brothers, two barking dogs, and one green pine tree dressed up in its finest.
Of course there was cooking, two days of it: butternut squash soup, cornish hens in a balsamic glaze, broccolini with garlic and lemon, prime rib au jus, and those aforementioned mashed potatoes, which turned into a very amusing group effort and resulted in one bent potato masher. But I don't want to talk about any of that; I'd rather tell you about something earthy and wholesome, like this dish, which is the kind of simple fare I go for when everything else seems too rich.
Sauteed mushrooms were one of the first things I made when I cooked for myself for the first time. I couldn't believe how far they cooked down; a whole package of mushrooms, which took me about forty-five minutes to meticulously clean and slice, produced a measly handful of the good stuff. I ate them standing at the kitchen counter, with a big pinch of salt and a sprinkle of parsley, and a fair amount of self-satisfaction. It's funny how little times have changed―I ate this sauteed mushroom winter mélange exactly the same way.
Winter Mélange of Beets and Mushrooms
This wonderfully earthy mixture combines the natural sweetness of beets with buttery sauteed mushrooms. Parsley and orange zest add a brightness that I love in the middle of winter.
Serves 4, as a side dish. Serve over polenta, brown rice, or another grain to turn it into a healthy main course for 2.
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium shallot, sliced
10 ounces cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 large beet, peeled, cooked, and chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon orange zest (optional)
1. Melt butter in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Once the foam subsides, add shallot and saute until soft, about 2 minutes.
2. Add mushrooms and a healthy pinch of salt. Saute, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are tender and have turned a darker shade of color, about 8 minutes. The mushrooms should produce a fair amount of liquid.
3. Add balsamic vinegar and parsley to the pan, stir, and continue to cook until all the liquid has evaporated. Add the chopped beet and cook until the beet pieces are warmed through, then remove from heat. Minimize stirring, which will cause your beets to bleed pink onto your mushrooms. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with orange zest, if desired.