1.20.12 Dry Run

Dried 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife
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...
Portobello 790 xxx
set your cap
...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.
Gills 790 xxx
a good ribbing
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.
Slices 790 xxx
shroom for more
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.
Marinated 790 xxx
soak it up
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).
Dried21 790 xxx
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.

Mushroom Jerky

  • — 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.

Download recipe  Download Recipe


love this post!
allison williams on January 20, 2012 at 4:19 am —
This looks so good, I may just have to get a dehydrator too! Please, write Nigella & Paula directly and give them a piece of your delectably healthy mind or at least send them a copy of this post! BTW, my mom also has Type 2 and is a regular watcher of Paula (tho she loves to make fun of her too). This is quite worrying especially if she's been sick for 3 years and never said a word about it!
Suzinn on January 20, 2012 at 8:02 am —
Suzinn, I think I'll repost this on Huffington Post. Seems like the right thing for that audience. I don't blog too much there because I always forget about it. See if you can get your mother to watch this; it's about how 6 people with diabetes reversed their condition in 30 days just with diet.
laura on January 20, 2012 at 8:15 am —
Thanks Laura! I've seen this doc, it's amazing! I sent the link to my folks with some "words" for Ms. Dean too. If you do post please let us know on FB and I will share with others.
Suzinn on January 20, 2012 at 4:00 pm —
I love this blog. I haven't been on to read it in a while and this one brought me happily back into the fold.
Peggy E on January 21, 2012 at 10:26 pm —
Peggy, I've been trying to get in touch with you! I sent several emails in the last month because I wanted to send you a bag of caramels...
laura on January 22, 2012 at 4:27 am —
Very cool. I'll have to try this with the drying function on our oven. We just started getting into drying herbs this year, and they keep really well.
Rob on January 22, 2012 at 4:42 am —
Let me know how that works, Rob. A dedicated dehydrator may just be a tad redundant if you have an oven that gets low enough...
laura on January 22, 2012 at 4:56 am —
This is brilliant. I've been planning to make my own jerky because it's nearly impossible to find any without sugar (even in grass-fed/organic meats). I'm trying your mushroom version too; star anise + red chile sounds splendid. This is my first visit to your blog - via IG - and it is lovely!
Allie on July 2, 2013 at 4:50 pm —
Welcome, Allie, and thanks for the kind words! Let us know how your jerkies turn out...
laura on July 2, 2013 at 5:03 pm —