Mariel here. After bringing my son home from the hospital, it felt a little bit like falling down a rabbit hole. Like all new moms – except for celebrity new moms who do nothing but gush about how magical the newborn phase is – I was scared pantsless by the prospect of caring for this tiny little creature who had somehow landed in (and exited from) my lap. I was relieved and overjoyed that he had arrived, while simultaneously secretly wishing he’d go back inside for like 30 minutes so I could watch Real Housewives and eat something other than rolled deli meat, which, as it turns out, is the lunch of champions.
While my son was constantly on me or near me during those first few weeks, I felt intensely alone and I relied heavily on my mom for support and companionship since my husband works crazy long hours. She stayed with me for a full two weeks, getting me out of the house for fancy excursions like a trip to Jo-Ann Fabric & Crafts so we could buy supplies to re-cover two antique dining room chair cushions. I remember emergi-nursing my son in the back of the car in the parking lot even though I fed him right before we left. “But it’s been less than two hours!” I’d cry. And he’d just look up at me like, “Lady, whoever you are, sh*t’s about to get real.”
In those early days, my mom really did the brunt of the cooking. I just didn’t have my wits about me and when there was a free moment, literally the last thing I wanted to do was spend time on my feet in the kitchen….after all, there were days of reality television to catch up on. Showers to be had. Underwear to be changed. Since I was in need of some serious carbo-loading comfort food, my mom often made her wonderful Mushroom Duxelle, both with and without the Crab-Stuffed Ravioli.
After my mom’s stint at Chez Insanity ended, she continued to bring me meals, which I’ll forever be grateful for. But every now and then, I’d be left to my own devices, and in those moments I’d a) die a little inside and b) try and recreate those comforting, mushroomy meals she made for me. I have made the recipe below too many times to count – initially I was attempting to ape her exact ingredient list, but little by little, as I got my bearings back in the kitchen (and in life), it evolved into something new and different.
I love this dish. It’s forgiving and open to interpretation and it tastes delicious no matter how you make it. I cannot recommend it highly enough. I hope it brings you as much comfort as it’s brought me.
Savory Marsala-Infused Mushroom-Shallot Sauce Serves 4
Note: The consistency is not particularly creamy nor saucy, it’s almost chunky, even tapenade-like. But it’s perfect and packed with flavor.
2 large shallots, halved – $0.89
3 cloves of garlic – stock
2 Tablespoons of olive oil, divided – stock
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, divided (you can get fancy and use truffle butter too) – stock
2 8-oz packages of baby bella mushrooms, rinsed, patted dry and then cut into quarters – $5
½-cup marsala wine (sherry works too in a pinch) – stock
1 Tablespoon Balsamic vinegar – stock
Dash of dried thyme – stock
Salt & pepper – stock
Ravioli – $3.59
~3 Tablespoons reserved pasta water
Grand total assuming “well-stocked” kitchen: $9.48
Cost per serving: $2.37
1. Using a food processor, pulse the shallots and garlic until finely chopped. Set aside in a small bowl.
2. Also using the food processor, pulse the mushrooms in batches until finely chopped. Set aside. (you can also hand-chop the mushrooms into a rough dice).
3. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a dash of salt over med-high heat. Reduce to med-low and saute the shallots & garlic until they start to turn translucent and fragrant (stir frequently to prevent burning).
4. Add the mushrooms, another pinch of salt and remaining olive oil & butter. Increase heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently for about 3 minutes, until the mushrooms start to turn grayish. Add the marsala and Balsamic vinegar and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Stir in the thyme and some freshly ground black pepper. Taste. I often just leave the mushrooms to simmer over a very low flame, stirring occasionally for 15-20 minutes while I cook the pasta.
5. Boil salted water and cook the ravioli (or pasta) according to package directions. Reserve ~3 tablespoons of the pasta water when straining. Add the pasta and reserved water to the mushrooms (taste to adjust seasonings/salt) and serve hot, garnished with parmesan, if desired.