Tag Archives: mushroom

A Little Slice of Chicago


That headline’s more than a mite misleading.

See, when it comes to deep-dish Chicago pizza, “little” and “slices” don’t really fit the equation. A “fat wedge,” yes. A “mountainous piece,” sure. But a little slice? Nuh-uh, that ain’t Chicago.

unoEspecially when you order a personal pizza at the original deep-dish pizzeria, Uno. In this case, the 2-inch tall pizza is dislodged from its pan before it even makes it to the table. And slicing the thing? Not going to happen.

But let’s back up a minute. Why was I in Chicago and why did I pick Uno over the plethora of “original” deep-dish pizza joints scattered around the Windy City? The easy explanation is 1) work and 2) Uno was only a few blocks from my hotel. When it comes to seeing the sites on a business trip, I’m nothing if not lazy.

Because of the popularity of the place and its inverse relationship to the amount of seating inside, you make your order (at least anything pizza-related) when you put down your name. Since the pizza takes 45 minutes to make and the wait is usually under that, it means less time at the table watching the early birds already devouring their meals.

I ordered my personal pie with mushrooms, spinach and sausage, which seemed like the right combo… despite how much the menu pushed pepperoni on everything.

As it has probably been written elsewhere and in far greater detail, the Chicago pie switches the traditional sauce/cheese relationship, relegating the cheese to a crust-sealer position on the bottom. This definitely makes sense on paper, but I also can’t argue with the taste. Once I finally breached the outer wall of the crust (which is an extreme sport all in itself), the stew of cheese, sauce and toppings could not be contained.

end-of-pizzaThe best analogy I can give about eating this thing was that it was like eating soup out of a bread bowl, except with a super-hearty soup and an impervious-to-moisture and not-very-bowl-shaped bowl.

It was a thing of beauty, this deep-dish pizza. And one that my belly will remember fondly.


Nazi No More – The Soup Man Returns

Remember this guy?

His name is Al Yageneh and he was the inspiration for Seinfeld’s legendary Soup Nazi character. Turns out he’s done quite well for himself by franchising his world-renowned New York soup shop.

I just discovered one of his Original Soup Man locations on a recent trip to the Jerz (New Jersey, for non-locals). I didn’t make the connection at first, but then I was struck by a big sign explaining “the rules”:

For the most efficient and fastest service, the line MUST keep moving.

  • Pick the soup you want!
  • Have your money ready!
  • Move to the EXTREME left after ordering!

Ah, yes! The memories came flooding back: George and Jerry ordering stone-faced and then sidestepping to pay with almost robotic precision. Fortunately, this particular shop was fairly empty and manned by an amiable guy in a backwards Yankees cap. He didn’t look like he was about to enforce any rules.

Alhough we tasted a curry-based soup and got a look at the rest of the lineup, the wife and I went with a vegetarian mushroom-barley concoction. Barley is not an ingredient that usually floats my boat (and neither is soup as a general food category), but this stuff was like liquid gold. It was flavorful without being too salty, hearty without being a full meal, and just the right balance of slurp and chew.

My only question: when’s the Soup Man coming to Philly?

Citrus Mushroom Risotto with Spicy Garlic Shrimp


Ah, risotto: bane of the lazy cook.

If the end product weren’t so deliriously delicious, I’m not sure you could convince me to constantly stir a pot of rice for a half hour straight. Repetitive, monotonous tasks just aren’t my forte.

This dish is mostly based on a Food & Wine recipe (you can see a by-the-books version here). I felt it was necessary to add the mushrooms and Parmesan because, well… all risotto should have mushrooms and Parmesan. It’s kind of a peanut butter and jelly issue for me.

Regardless of your personal preferences (and I highly encourage you to experiment further), the juxtaposition of the light, spicy shrimp and the heavy, tangy risotto really dances on the tongue and warms the belly.

Here’s how it goes:


  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms (preferably chanterelles or wild mushrooms)
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 small chilies, chopped or 1 tbsp dry red pepper
  • 6 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1.5 cups arborio rice
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1.5 tsp grated lemon zest
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 lb. medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese


Saute mushrooms in 1 tbsp of butter until liquid is released. Remove from heat and set aside.

Crush garlic and chilies together, preferably in a mortar. If using red (or chili) pepper, combine with crushed garlic and a little olive oil. Cover and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, bring the stock to a boil. Cover and keep hot.

In a larger saucepan, melt 1 tbsp of butter in 1 tbsp of the olive oil. Add the onion and cook over medium heat until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Gradually add the stock, one cup at a time, stirring constantly and making sure all of the stock has been absorbed before adding more, about 25 minutes total.

When the rice is cooked through but still al dente, add the sauted mushrooms. The risotto is done when the grains are just tender and the sauce is creamy. Remove from the heat and stir in lemon juice, zest, remaining butter and Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper and cover.

In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil. Add the shrimp, season with salt and pepper, and cook over high heat until the shrimp are almost pink throughout, about 2 minutes. Add the chile/pepper and garlic mixture and cook, stirring for 1 minutes. Stir in the parsley.

Stir the risotto. Spoon into bowls or serving plates. Top risotto with shrimp. Serve with lemon wedges and/or extra parsley.


As you can tell, I didn’t have parsley. Which is really a shame, because a few flecks of green might have livened up the pictures.

I should really work on my presentation skills.



I know what you’re thinking: “More pizza?! I can’t take it any more. There’s more to food than just cheese and crust!”

Well, you sir (or ma’am), are in luck. This is not a story about pizza.

It’s about two pizzas.

The first pie was the infamous experimental pizza, meant to assuage my fears that I would completely ruin Thanksgiving. Within one crust, I made two separate combos (and an alternate) to make sure that both will work on its own. The first half (right side of the first picture) was a twist on the caramelized dealy I tried last week. This time, however, I added pear slices between the caramelized onion base and the blue cheese. Wow.

The other half (left side of the first picture) was an apple experiment. I originally meant the cheese to be only cheddar, but I was convinced to add an alternative – Gruyere – by an extremely knowledgeable, friendly cheese guy from DiBruno Brothers – an amazing gourmet food shop in Philly. So I split the two cheeses between the two corners, added some apple slices and topped it with some crispy turkey bacon. Score.

Not only did both pizza ideas work better than expected, they were, by far, the best I’ve ever made. I haven’t seen either combination exactly the same way on the Internets, so I’ll have to write them up as recipes to prove my creative prowess. Incidentally, I like to think of this blogging thing as a poor man’s copyright; kind of like sealing your idea in an envelope and sending it to yourself. Even if somebody steals my flavor combo, though, I’ll still have the satisfaction of having not killed my relatives via sub par Thanksgiving appetizer. That would’ve been just embarrassing.

Trying to keep the pizza streak alive, and taking some hints from my very clever commentators (from last pizza post), I went right back to a traditional sauce and cheese pie for dinner. Again it was on wheat crust, but this time, I pre-cooked it before adding the toppings. I also dried the fresh mozzarella to make sure it didn’t over-moisten the crust. Finally, I was lucky enough to have some spinach and mushrooms in the house, so I sauted them in the same pan as the caramelized onions and turkey bacon, giving both a nice, salty flavor.

Three for three! Or really two for two, since (technically) there were only two crusts. Either way, it was a successful night of pizza-making. And I needed it.