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Posts tagged ‘umami’

Saucy Series XIII: Mushroom Ketchup

Welcome to guest blogger Deana Sidney of Lost Past Remembered, a blog dedicated to discovering, replicating and adapting historic recipes. In this saucy series she demystifies one of the cornerstones of classic French cuisine: the mother sauces.

Mushroom Ketchup

Heston Blumenthal is a wonderful character. He appeals to me because he loves to play with food and to study ancient recipes to find inspiration for his dishes. His new restaurant, Dinner, in London is a smashing success with dishes that have a pedigree. One of his most popular historical recipes is one for mushroom ketchup.

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Mushroom ketchup has been made for hundreds of years –– you could call it the English version of soy sauce. It’s salty, positively exploding with umami and is an awesome addition to any meat dish, but can also add a wholly vegetarian meaty depth to a vegetable dish as well.

I’ve seen mushroom ketchup mentioned in recipes for years and always wanted to make it. In looking up mushroom ketchup recipes (my 1846 recipe from The Complete Cook was vague about the ratio of salt to mushrooms and I wanted guidance on that score), the more I searched, the more Heston’s name kept showing up.

Although Heston had a simple 18th century recipe for his base authentic mushroom ketchup, I really fell for a slightly more involved recipe from the 19th century that’s full of pepper –– I love pepper. Honestly, it is very little work but a 48 hour soak. Heston’s recipe is only an overnight drip. You will get somewhere around 2 cups of mushroom ketchup out of my recipe –– I did not make his version but in the video of the process, it appeared to generate about the same amount. You can store it forever in the fridge and even use the leftover mushrooms from the process to make a great mushroom pepper (after a wee dry in the oven). I’ll give you both so you can choose. Do buy the freshest mushrooms that you can. Old mushrooms have lost their liquid and will make for much less ketchup. DO NOT buy sliced mushrooms for the same reason –– they will have lost moisture with the cutting. I halved the recipe but it is easily doubled.

Dinner menu

At his London restaurant, Dinner, all his beef dishes are served with mushroom ketchup, but when I see the pictures of the mixture I am confused because the sauce I see is thick and glossy and mushroom ketchup is the texture of soy or Worcestershire sauces. Big surprise, Heston played with the texture –– he likes to play with food. Authentic mushroom ketchup has the same texture as soy sauce –– Heston makes mushroom ketchup plus.

Taking my cue from Heston, I deployed my sauce series partner D’Artagnan’s magnificent pasture-raised boneless strip sirloin steaks as a perfect medium for my mushroom ketchup. The meat was splendid –– so tender and full of flavor. History tastes great.

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Sirloin Steak with Mushroom Ketchup for 2

2 boneless strip sirloin steaks from D’Artagnan
light salt and pepper
1 T olive oil
Heston’s Mushroom Ketchup Sauce

Salt and pepper the steak. Don’t use much salt because the ketchup is salty. Heat a cast-iron skillet till quite hot. Add olive oil to the pan and put the steaks in the pan. Brown each side. The steak will be rare at this point. Cook longer for more doneness. Let rest a few minutes before serving with the mushroom ketchup.

Heston’s Mushroom Ketchup Sauce

2 oz red wine
1 oz red wine vinegar
1 small chopped shallot
pinch of cloves and mace ( I think pepper would be good too if you are not using my recipe for the mushroom ketchup base)
1 c mushroom ketchup (use Heston’s or the recipe from The Complete Cook – recipes follow)*
2 t cornstarch dissolved in 1 1/2 T cold water
drained, marinated mushrooms (recipe follows)

Reduce by 1/2 (his recipe called for 2/3rds reduction and I thought that was too much) and strain out the shallots – you will have a little over 1/2 a cup. Add the cornstarch mixture to the hot mixture and return to a low heat for a few minutes. Stir till thickened and remove from the heat. Add the marinated mushrooms and serve with the steak. Depending on the amount of marinade the mushrooms have soaked up, you may want to toss a bit of the mushroom marinade into the ketchup to your taste – I liked the little extra sweetness that it added.

*mushroom ketchup is thin, Heston’s recipe is a thick sauce made from the ketchup

Marinated Mushrooms

5 oz red wine vinegar
1/4 c sugar
4 oz mushrooms, sliced

Heat the vinegar and sugar to melt the sugar. Pour over the mushrooms and marinate for 24 hours.

Heston’s Recipe for Mushroom Ketchup

(used as base for the sauce, from an 18th c recipe)

1 3/4 lbs mushrooms, sliced
1 1/3 oz salt

Combine the salt and the mushrooms. Enclose in fabric (old t-shirt maybe?) and twist cloth and hang over a pot for 24 hours. Squeeze tightly to extract as much liquid as possible.

Mushroom Ketchup from The Complete Cook

1 3/4 lb mushrooms, pulsed a few times in a food processor or roughly chopped immediately before using
2 oz salt in the original recipe or about 3 T (I think 2T might be better — it’s very salty)
1 oz black peppercorns
1/2 oz allspice berries
1 T brandy

Put the mushrooms and salt in a glass or ceramic bowl and blend well. Let them sit for 2 hours and then stir and cover. Leave for 2 days, stirring a few times a day.

Put into a canning jar with the spices and screw the lid on, you should have around a quart.

Put in a stockpot and bring the water to a low boil (I put a wad of foil at the bottom so the glass wouldn’t touch the metal) for 2 hours. Strain the liquid into another pan using a fine sieve pressing hard on the solids. I finished up the process with a potato ricer that got every last bit of juice out of the mushrooms, but putting them in a cloth and squeezing would work well. Reserve the mushroom pieces that remain from the pressing.

At this point Sanderson recommends reducing the ketchup by half. If you are using it for the Blumenthal ketchup skip this step as the ratio of ketchup to his wine/vinegar mix will be off. Do cool the mixture and add the brandy. Put it in a canning jar. You should have 2 cups unreduced and 1 cup reduced. It is quite salty.

Preheat your oven to 200º, Spread the pepper mushroom mixture on the pan, remove the larger allspice berries and dry for 1 hour or until dried out. Put in a spice grinder and grind. Use as a wonderful mushroom flavored pepper in all your dishes.

Duckspotting @ Union Bar & Grille, Boston, MA

Duckspotting is snapping & sending in pics of dishes from your favorite restaurants, made with D’Artagnan ingredients! We supply restaurants all over the country & love to see what creative chefs are doing with our products. Keep sending them in!

The U2 Burger at Union Bar and Grille

The U2 Burger at Union Bar and Grille

Where: Union Bar and Grille

What: Chef Steven Morlino’s U2 (Umami Union) Burger  with our fantastic Wagyu beef.

How: Union Bar and Grille is at 1357 Washington Street,  Boston, MA 02118   |   for reservations, call (617) 423-0555

Dining out & spot some fabulous dishes made with D’Artagnan ingredients? Snap a pic & email with the details to alishah@dartagnan.com

Umami Dearest…

Umami (pronounced /oo-mäme/) is a relatively new term. It’s a Japanese loan-word referring the fifth taste, completing the revamped five-taste model alongside salty, sweet, sour and bitter. The mysterious word which as of late has been popping up frequently in food writing, blogs, restaurant menus, and cooking shows, describes a taste you are no doubt already familiar with. If you’ve eaten a well-ripened tomato, aged parmesan cheese, porcini mushrooms, cured ham, miso soup or even French fries dressed with ketchup, you’ve experienced umami.

Shiitake mushrooms - an excellent example of Umami

The sensation is difficult to characterize but some describe it as savory, meaty, mouth-watering and having depth or roundness. While many fail to recognize umami when they taste it, it plays no less of an important role in making food taste delicious.

So what is it exactly?
Salty, sweet, sour and bitter are fairly straightforward tastes but umami is slightly different. Umami is a distinct but difficult to describe, savory taste caused by the interaction of glutamates (amino acids), and ribonucleotides (naturally occurring compounds in food) reacting with receptors on the tongue, or taste buds. Some umami taste buds respond specifically to glutamate in the same way that “sweet” buds respond to sugar.

Cured hams, like Jambon de Bayonne, trigger umami receptors

Think about biting into a cheddar cheeseburger with ketchup, spaghetti with marinara sauce and a dusting of Parmigiano Reggiano or a salt-kissed slice of Jambon de Bayonne – the saliva-inducing, mouth-filling, deep, satiating taste – that is umami. In addition to being a unique standalone taste, umami seems to enhance foods it is combined with, intensifying other flavors as well.

History & controversy
Although the term is relatively new, the concept of umami is ancient. Examples of umami-rich foods can be traced back centuries. The taste appeared in early cured and fermented foods, such as the Roman condiment, garum, and fermented Asian sauces such as soy sauce, which is thought to have originated over 2,800 years ago.

Ancient Roman fermenting vats, used in the production of Garum

In the late 1800s, the “king of chefs and chef of kings”, Auguste Escoffier, discovered and noted the unique character of umami, when he developed his famous veal bone stock. The exquisite dishes he enriched with the stock had a new quality – one that was deep, rich and could not be described as salty, sweet, sour or bitter. Although he couldn’t fully articulate this new taste, causing French scientists to diminish his discovery, Escoffier knew he had stumbled onto something important. Well-heeled Parisians thought so too, flocking to the Ritz Hotel in droves to experience his dishes for themselves.

Auguste Escoffier & Kikunae Ikeda, Taste Pioneers

A short time after Escoffier’s discovery, the Japanese expression “umami” was coined. In 1908, Tokyo University Professor, Kikunae Ikeda, while studying the palatability of broth made from kombu seaweed noted that the taste could not be classified as salty, sweet, sour or bitter. He combined umai “delicious” and mi “taste” to describe the broths rich, deep, savory quality and wrote a scientific article outlining his find. But just as with Escoffier, scientists rejected Ikeda’s findings. The traditional four-taste model was so dominant, umami’s status as a fifth taste was considered controversial until nearly 100 years after it’s discovery when a new generation of scientists finally took a closer look. They discovered, just as Escoffier and Professor Ikeda had alleged that indeed there is a fifth taste. And it’s delicious.

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