1.20.12 Dry Run
I'm about to pick a major bone, so if you're not in the mood—and I'm not talking about steak for dinner—turn away now. There's been a media pigpile on Paula Deen this week and I've got to get in my licks. It's not just that she has consistently used her Food TV show to promote unhealthy (and foul) food and
been a longtime paid shill for industrial-meat giant Smithfield (whose inexcusably raised products are proven to increase the risk of diabetes), but now she's a spokesperson for Novo Nordisk's diabetes treatment Victoza (the 2010 FDA approval of which came amidst powerful evidence of a link to thyroid cancer), after disclosing that she was diagnosed with the disease three years ago
. I find this all so deeply disturbing. And then I read a review by Nigella Lawson on the Piglet
, Food52's wonderful Tournament of Cookbooks, where she writes about being suspicious of Heidi Swanson's excellent Super Natural Every Day
"because I always fear a certain smuggery, and words like 'my natural kitchen' set off the alarm bells." How have we come to this place where natural and healthy are deemed "smug," and doughnut burgers
for breakfast are the order of the day? As I used to say in junior high, gag me with a fork
. I think you know where I stand on all this. Bacon and kale are both welcome in my kitchen...
...as is my fabulous new dehydrator
, a Christmas gift from G, who knew I had been coveting one for some time. (How's that for a segue?) It's yet another way of preserving food, something I am increasingly interested in as the apocalypse approaches. Kidding. Sort of. People have been using this method since antiquity; think jerky, figs, tomatoes, chiles, salt cod, etc. It essentially removes the water content, which inhibits the growth of microorganisms and hinders decay. Dehydrated foods retain a great deal of their nutritional value so, at the risk of sounding smug, I'll point out that they are quite healthy. I'm looking forward to using my new machine to make fruit leathers, vegetable chips, even yogurt.
I read about a portobello mushroom jerky made by this company
, but apparently it's been discontinued. Not to be deterred, I decided to attempt my own. Mushrooms are inherently meaty and also rather spongelike, so they absorb flavors well. Don't have a dehydrator? You can try making this using the lowest setting on your oven. Maybe prop the door open with a wooden spoon. Just watch carefully so the mushrooms don't crisp up. You want the texture to be dense and leathery, with the right tooth-tugging chew.
The slices will shrink as they dry, so cut them about three-quarters of an inch thick. Incidentally (she said smugly), mushrooms are low in fat, relatively high in protein, and full of vitamins and minerals. If you'd like to find out more about the wonderful world of fungi, listen to this fascinating interview
on Fresh Air with botanist Nicholas Money.
I made a tangy marinade with maple syrup, tamari and pimentón, but you can play around with any flavors you like. Assertive ones work best, as does a combination of sweet-tart-salty-spicy. I love Dickson's beef jerky made with an addictive mix of star anise and red chile, and may try recreating that next time. When using meat, lean is best as fat turns rancid more quickly (see: Paula Deen).
into leather (one of the all-time great move lines: watch this
This is a really satisfying snack! The texture is addictive. Too bad it's so fucking healthy. How uncool. Paula and Nigella would not approve. I guess in a pinch you can always stick it between a couple of doughnuts and call it breakfast.
— 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
— 4 tablespoons brown rice or cider vinegar
— 4 tablespoons maple syrup, molasses or honey
— 6 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
— 4 portobello mushrooms
— 1 generous teaspoon pimentón
— 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
— 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
— 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
Remove stems from mushrooms and reserve for another use. Gently wipe caps clean with a damp paper towel, then slice into even strips, about 3/4" thick.
Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl and stir to mix well. Add mushroom slices and gently toss to coat. Transfer everything to a large ziploc bag and lay flat on a plate or shallow dish. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight, turning several times.
After marinating, remove mushrooms from marinade and spread in a single layer on a rack of some sort (broiler pan, cooling rack, etc) to drain for 15 minutes or so. Then transfer to dehydrator trays and dry them in a single layer at 120º for about 5 hours, or until mushrooms are leathery—dry and chewy, not crunchy. Dehyrating time will vary according to how much liquid the mushrooms absorbed, so check them starting at about 3 ½ hours.
When dry, cool to room temperature and store in a sealed container like a glass jar or ziploc bag.