Jody Adams’ Mushroom Fricassee

Jody Adams is the award-winning chef/owner of Rialto in Cambridge, MA, author of In the Hands of a Chef, a former contestant on BRAVO’s Top Chef Masters, and a truly lovely person. (She’s also a seemingly lapsed blogger.)

Adams focuses on regional Italian cooking. Her menus explore the culinary traditions of Sicily, Sardinia or Emilia-Romagna, and while a handful of regular dishes are available year-round, most of her offerings change with the seasons.  In the autumn months, she sometimes offers, as a side dish, a delicious fricassee of wild mushrooms (shiitakes, chanterelles and more) served in a rich, slightly soupy sauce. It is delicious.

Could it be the basis of a vegetarian entree, I wondered. So last night I experimented: I made Adams’ mushroom fricassee (I used shiitakes, portobellos, chanterelles, oysters and blue foot mushrooms, and used olive oil instead of the butter the recipe called for), and I served it on a bed of soft polenta, topped with a poached egg and a sprinkle of parmesan.

The Professor, an initial skeptic, deemed it “good,” though he declined to grade the first effort, preferring to evaluate it after a few attempts. But this much was clear: The combination of flavors worked well, and the addition of dry Marsala (a wine I’d never cooked with before) helped create a hearty broth. But overall, the fricassee was very, very rich — in part because Adams calls for cooking each type of mushroom separately and adding butter/oil each time. There’s a reason that Adams serves it as a side dish, rather than a larger dinner portion.

I am going to try a version of the dish again, but I’ll cut the amount of olive oil next time. And I’m going to study the recipe for Mushroom Hash (topped with a poached egg!) that, by coincidence, Martha Rose Shulman published this week in her New York Times’ Recipes for Health column.

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