Tagliatelle with Balsamic Cream
Varietal: Chardonnay (Unoaked), Pinot Gris, or Gëwurztraminer
Serves 4 as a main dish; 6 to 8 as an appetizer
This heady mushroom and balsamic cream sauce is best served over fresh tagliatelle (homemade or store bought). Minus the pasta, it also serves as an alluring side dish or sauce with meat entrées such as grilled chicken, pork, or beef. The dish is very versatile as far as wine pairing goes; consider a full-bodied Pinot Gris, such as the ones produced by King Estate Winery in Oregon. Chilled Gewürztraminer or an unoaked Chardonnay would also work nicely with this toothsome dish.
1 pound homemade or store-bought fresh or dried tagliatelle (if you opt for the dried, increase the amount of mushrooms to 1 1/2 pounds)
Extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 pound small, whole cultivated mushrooms (such as white or cremini) or small, whole wild mushrooms (such as chanterelle or morel; see Cook’s Hint, below)
1/2 cup dry white wine
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons high-quality balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1. Cook the homemade pasta until al dente, 2 to 3 minutes, or cook the store-bought pasta according to the package instructions until al dente. Drain well. Sprinkle lightly with extra virgin olive oil, toss to coat well, and keep warm until serving.
2. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When it begins to foam, add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms begin to release their juices and aroma, 5 to 7 minutes. Lower the heat if the mushrooms begin to brown.
3. Add the wine, salt, and pepper and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated, 3 to 4 minutes.
4. Sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms and stir quickly and evenly to prevent lumps. Cook, stirring constantly, until the flour is fully incorporated and loses its raw aroma, 1 to 2 minutes.
5. Slowly add the cream, stirring well after each addition to avoid lumps, and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes.
6. Turn off the heat. Cut the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter into small pieces and add it a few pieces at a time, stirring well after each addition. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the balsamic vinegar.
7. Pour the mushroom-cream sauce over the pasta and toss to coat. Divide the pasta among soup dishes or pasta bowls. Sprinkle with the cheese, and serve immediately.
Cook’s Hint: There is much debate over the best way to clean mushrooms. For cultivated mushrooms that are smooth and relatively clean (such as white or cremini), I find that a quick rinse in cold water, then thorough drying with a clean kitchen towel or paper towel, works best. For wild mushrooms (such as chanterelles) that may contain deep furrows, pine needles, and other debris, a mushroom brush and a gentle wipe with a damp cloth does the trick. Badly bruised or spongy spots, and signs of insects, should always be removed before cooking. Morels are another story, because their honeycomb surface can contain a lot of grit. To clean morels, if they are large enough, tap them gently (stem side down on a hard surface) to remove as much grit as possible. Then fill a large mixing bowl with cool water and add 1 tablespoon of table salt, stirring well to dissolve the salt. Add the morels and swish them through the water to remove as much grit (and insects, which are repelled by the salt) as possible. Drain the water and replace with clean cool water. Repeat the cleaning process two to three times, or until the water runs clear. After draining the last time, squeeze out as much water as possible from the morels, then pat them dry with a clean kitchen towel or on paper towels. Cut out any discolorations or spoiled spots and discard any mushrooms that are spongy (which means they are old). Slice large mushrooms in half; leave small and medium mushrooms whole.
Recipe reprinted from Pacific Northwest Wining & Dining: The People, Places, Food, and Drink of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia (Wiley, 2007, $34.95) by Braiden Rex-Johnson.