Category: mushrooms

Some stout pie shenanigans.

The Irish (and English, for that matter) love their pies. And I don’t mean fruit pies, I mean meat pies. Hot, cold, warm or room temperature, they love them some meat pies. It’s a famous pub dish; a flaky pie crust or puff pastry topping over a beef-stew like filling. You can make them in individual pie plates or as one big pie. Similar concept to Shepherd’s pie, except this pie actually has a crust on top, whereas the former has mashed potatoes.

meat pie is a pie with a filling of meat and/or other savoury ingredients. Principally popular in EuropeAustraliaNew ZealandCanada, and South Africa, meat pies differ from a pasty in the sense that a pasty is typically a more portable, on-the-go item, as opposed to a more conventional pie.


A few weeks ago, I went to a pub that Jay’s friend opened in Brooklyn, and somewhere around the third or fourth Guinness we decided to have a beef & stout pie. It was just a simple little pub with no kitchen, so the pie was an instant microwaveable one. But it gave me an idea: make your own, Marilla!  And at some point, in between then and now, I picked up this book, which conveniently had a recipe listed on the cover for beef & stout pies. SCORE.

How perfect is that?

Anyway, I decided I’d give ’em a try this week, and they turned out pretty amazing.

And quite easy, actually. In the opinion of the Irish (according to the book), the only stout suitable for cooking with beef is Guinness. If you have another stout you want to use, then so be it. I stick with Guinness for this kinda stuff though- it’s sweet, but not too sweet. Perfect for a stew.



  • 2 lbs. boneless chuck steak or eye of round steak, cut into 1″-inch pieces
  •  1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/4 cups meat stock
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 4 or 5 large carrots, peeled & sliced into “coins”
  • 4 or 5 medium/large potatoes, peeled and cut into roughly 1/2″ chunks
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • 1 cup Guinness stout
  • 1 pound store-bought puff pastry or store-bought pie crust
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • vegetable oil, for frying


  1. Combine the flour, salt and pepper in a medium bowl, then toss the (patted dry) beef in the mix until evenly coated.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the beef, in batches, and transfer to a flameproof casserole dish or dutch oven. Deglaze the skillet with 1/4 cup of the stock, and add the liquid to the casserole dish.
  3. Heat another 1-2 tablespoons of oil in the skillet and cook the onion and carrots for 6-7 minutes or until onions are soft.  Add to the casserole dish with the tomato paste, thyme, stout, potatoes and remaining stock. Heat the casserole dish or oven over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, then simmer gently with the lid slightly askew for around 1 1/2 hours.
  4. Check the seasoning, and add salt or pepper as needed. Drain the meat mixture in a strainer set over a large bowl. Reserve the liquid, letting rest until cool. Preheat the oven to 425° F and put a baking sheet in the oven to preheat.
  5. Divide the meat mixture among four individual pie plates or 5 -5 1/2″ ramekins. Pour in enough liquid to not quite cover the filling. Dampen the rims of the plates or ramekins with water.
  6. Cut your pastry into four pieces, each one large enough to cover the tops of the pies including a 1″ hangover.  Make holes in it or two or three slashes to allow air our and place them on top of the filling, pressing the edges down. I used a fork to push the dough onto the rim. Brush with egg yolk.
  7. Places the pies on a the preheated baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 400° F and bake for 5 more minutes. Allow to cool slightly before serving so no one burns a tongue!

It isn’t the most attractive looking meal, but trust me. It’s way better than it looks! Potatoes, beer, beef, carrots… how can that be bad!?

If you wish, you can lessen the amount of carrots & potatoes, but add in some cremini mushrooms (just the caps, quartered- no stems). I’m not a big mushroom lover. I left them out. If you do choose to add mushrooms, add them with the onions and carrots in step 3. Also, I used frozen pie crust for the tops. Puff pastry will be puffier, obviously. You can also use homemade, if you’ve got a great recipe you like. For the sake of time I went with frozen. Sue me. 

I also made four ramekins, each one measures about 5″ across and 3 1/2″ high. I actually bought them at Pier 1 Imports, so here they are, the larger size. Vintage embroidered Irish linen napkins not included.

And that, my friends, is that. Serve with a hearty bread, or a bit of Irish soda bread, and a pint of Guinness! Or Harp. Or whatever. It doesn’t really matter what you pair it with, just so long as you enjoy yourself.

I hope you all have a happy & delicious St. Patrick’s Day!

Margherita pizza all up in your face.

Another one of my obsessions in life is pizza. A good margherita pizza is like heaven on earth. Just a nice dough, good simple sauce, fresh mozzarella (or buffalo mozzarella) and fresh basil. Mmm. So delicious. I also enjoy grandma pizza, a big fat slice of sicilian pizza and regular ol’ pizza too. I’m a New Yorker, come on, these things are ingrained in us since birth, along with the love of bagels.

What is margherita pizza?

Pizza Margherita is a pizza prepared according to a recipe of the Italian chef Raffaelle Esposito. The pizza was first made in 1899 when Queen Marghereta visited Naples to escape a cholera epidemic in the north of Italy. The ingredients used to make a Margherita pizza, tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil, imitate the colors of the Italian flag. Queen Marghereta liked the pizza so much that she wrote a thank you letter to Esposito, who decided to name the pizza after the Queen.

I’ve made pizza before at home, a lot. It’s one of my favorite things to make. I’ve shared a few recipes on here and it’s starting to become a phenomenon like my macaroni & cheese obsession. But my whole point of this site is making life easy for busy cooks and bakers, yet making good, delicious food as well. And what’s better than pizza? Everyone likes pizza. It’s simple, doesn’t require a lot of planning, and even if you wanna make a more complex dough you still only have to do it the night before. But you don’t have to make a complex dough. There are tons of easy quick pizza dough recipes out there. Some of which you don’t even need to use a mixer for (this makes Lola sad, however). So in this post, I’ll show you a quick margherita pizza, and one with mushrooms as well, and I’ll also give you a recipe for another favorite pizza around here: carbonara. There are no pictures of that, as I didn’t make it this time, but I think you’ll get the idea.

Regular margherita pie in all it’s glory



  • 1 packet (¼ oz.) active dry rapid-rise yeast
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1 ¼ cups lukewarm water (105 to 115° F)
  • 1 ½ tsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • cornmeal, for sprinkling


  1. Mix ½ of flour with yeast, salt, water with honey dissolved in it, and olive oil.
  2. Beat with electric mixer for 3 minutes. Mix in remaining flour (dough should only be slightly sticky). Knead 5 minutes on a floured surface until smooth.
  3. Place dough in lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 10 minutes in a warm place.
  4. Punch dough down and divide in half. Punch down dough thoroughly and spread/stretch dough portion by hand and roller on a greased pizza pan. Move dough crust to pizza peel spread with coarse cornmeal or to pizza screen. Add sauce, cheese, and toppings and bake in preheated 500° F oven directly on the pizza stone for 8-10 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Cool 2-3 minutes on a wire rack before cutting and serving.

This particular dough recipe requires both a mixer and a pizza stone. If you have neither, then try this recipe. If you’re looking for other pizza dough options, check the ‘pizza’ category. Usually, most recipes can be divided to make more than one, stretched thin to make thin crust, or used to make a thick crust, depending on your preference. Remember that some recipes rise more when cooking too, so go a bit thinner than you normally would if you like a super thin crust. This dough has a bit of a sweeter taste background because of the honey. If that doesn’t appeal to you, one of my other three dough recipes should. I personally prefer these two recipes to this one, but it’s good to try new things. I will say this: if the concept of honey in your pizza dough does not appeal to you, choose another recipe. If you’re open to trying it, then go right ahead. If it’s your first time making pizza at home, definitely use this recipe instead.

I topped it with my homemade sauce, fresh mozzarella (you know, those little balls? Not the shredded stuff in the bag or the block of Polly-O, although if you can’t get fresh then you can most certainly use that) and a basil leaf cut in a chiffonade (I’ll explain how to do that below) and on the other pie I put sliced white button mushrooms. As far as the fresh mozzarella, if you don’t have an Italian deli near you or can’t afford the higher priced fresh ones, BelGioioso now makes fresh mozzarella, it’s in the regular mozzarella section of supermarkets. It’s in a ball shape, and there’s also a larger one that comes in a sort of rounded tube.

Margherita with mushroom… up close & personal

If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, here’s a recipe for making an easy carbonara pizza, thanks to Rachael Ray. Carbonara is traditionally made with guanciale (pig’s cheeks), eggs, and parmesan. This recipe makes it a bit more appetizing by using pancetta, which is Italian bacon without the smoky flavor regular bacon has, ricotta cheese as well as pecorino romano, and it involves provolone cheese as well. Just follow the dough instructions above, or whatever dough creation/preparation you like, and use this as the topping.



  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • ¼ pound pancetta, chopped
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino romano cheese
  • 2 large egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • Pepper
  • 1 ½ to 2 cups shredded provolone cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (a generous handful)
  1. In a small skillet, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring often, until crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. Add the ricotta, pecorino romano, egg yolks and garlic to the pancetta; season with pepper and stir to combine.
  2. Spread the ricotta mixture over the pizza dough, leaving a ½-inch border all around. Top with the provolone. Bake until the crust and topping are golden and cooked through. Scatter the parsley on top, cut and serve.

I just love how fresh mozzarella melts, it’s like cream. And let me tell you that the sauce I make is so amazing… I highly recommend you try it. At least once. You won’t be sorry. Delicioso! Go make some pizza, eat some pizza and then get some Red Mango. Yum.

Keep in mind also that homemade pizza dough can be used to make stromboli and calzones as well! You don’t have to always make pizza with it. Also, you can make cheesy breadsticks with it, or garlic knots. And as far as pizza toppings, anything you like can be used. Ham & pineapple (ew), pepperoni, chicken, broccoli, buffalo chicken & blue cheese, any kind of mushroom, cheddar cheese, monterey or pepper jack cheese, meatballs, peppers, anchovies, spinach, baked ziti… the choice is yours! Sauce or no sauce, even barbecue sauce… whatever floats your boat.

Okay… chiffonade. Chiffonade is the realy professional way of cutting basil, the way it comes on your dishes at restaurants: perfect little curled strips of fresh basil. It’s so easy to do, you’ll feel really stupid (just like I did) when you see how it’s done. First, take a basil leaf. Cut off the excess stem. Then, roll it up from the point down to the stem so you have a long tube. Holding the tube so it’s horizontal, use a sharp knife to cut the tube in even little pieces. Each of those pieces will be a “curl” of basil. Ta-da!

Now you can impress everyone you know by cutting your basil in a chiffonade. And if that doesn’t impress them, screw ’em. They aren’t worth knowing.

“Waiter, there’s fungi in my risotto!”

Before I get started talking about fungus, I wanna say how much I appreciate all my readers and fans. There’s no smooth transition between talking about fungi and my fans, or vice versa, so I won’t even try. I just wanted to tell you all that I really do appreciate you, every single one of you, and I love all the awesome comments and e-mails I get from you. You guys are the best, and because you all give me such rad feedback and keep me going, it makes me doing this site so much more fun. So thank you, seriously. I am not exaggerating when I say you’re all that and a frosted cupcake, for sure.  Speaking of cupcakes, if I could send each and every one of you a cupcake with frosting piled 4 inches high and a big hug, I would. Don’t worry- I’m not losing my edge. I guess since Valentine’s Day is coming I got a little sappy there… but it’s all the truth. Allright, enough, now let’s talk about food.

I’ve said many times before, I LOVE RISOTTO. It’s one of my favorite dishes to make at home. I have about five recipes for it on this website alone. In restaurants, I find myself being very picky and somewhat snobbish about it. I’ve only encountered one risotto that was satisfactory to my taste and expectations on L.I.- at Wall’s Wharf in Bayville, the mushroom risotto. Other than that, it’s always been either too dry, too rubbery, too much like regular rice, or too mushy. So I usually just stick to making it myself and choosing other dishes when dining out.

Okay so, me and mushrooms have a troubled history. I don’t love them. I tolerate them in certain dishes, but I’m not really what you would call a mushroom lover. However, while doing my grocery shopping the other day I thought, “Why don’t I buy these beauteous baby bella mushrooms and do something with them?” I don’t know if I had accidentally ingested acid earlier in the day, or if indeed I’m beginning to *gasp* actually like mushrooms. I’ll go with ‘a’  just to save my reputation.

A mushroom is the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, typically produced above ground on soil or on its food source. The standard for the name “mushroom” is the cultivated white button mushroom, Agaricus bisporus, hence the word mushroom is most often applied to those fungi (Basidiomycota, Agaricomycetes) that have a stem (stipe), a cap (pileus), and gills (lamellae, sing. lamella) on the underside of the cap, just as do store-bought white mushrooms.

The word “mushroom” can also be used for a wide variety of gilled fungi, with or without stems, and the term is used even more generally, to describe both the fleshy fruiting bodies of some Ascomycota and the woody or leathery fruiting bodies of some Basidiomycota, depending upon the context of the word.

Forms deviating from the standard morphology usually have more specific names, such as “puffball“, “stinkhorn“, and “morel“, and gilled mushrooms themselves are often called “agarics” in reference to their similarity to Agaricus or their placement in the order Agaricales. By extension, the term “mushroom” can also designate the entire fungus when in culture or the thallus (called a mycelium) of species forming the fruiting bodies called mushrooms, or the species itself.

I’ve always found it odd that mushrooms are even a part of our human diet- considering they’re a fungus. It’s like eating bleu cheese, sorta, because you’re essentially eating mold (bleu cheese is one of my favorite cheeses, by the way). But nevertheless, there they are, in all their glory, with their little caps and stems looking like something out of Alice In Wonderland. And we buy ’em and stuff them and saute them and put them on pizza and in risotto and some people even use them as the “burger” in a faux-hamburger! Oh, mushrooms, you so crazy. Isn’t it funny that a society that has so many germophobic tendencies, and obsessions with cleanliness and getting rid of dirt and mold and fungus, actually enjoy eating those very things?

So here’s a dee-rish-us recipe from Tyler Florence. I will tell you here that I only used baby bella mushrooms, an 8 oz package, and it was plenty as far as I’m concerned. If you’re a big mushroom fan, do as you like. I also didn’t use truffle oil, just regular olive oil. I didn’t garnish with parsley either. Rebel, rebel.



  • 8 cups chicken broth, low sodium
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 onion, diced, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced, divided
  • 1 pound fresh portobello and crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon truffle oil
  • 1-ounce dried porcini mushrooms, wiped of grit
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ½ cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Fresh Italian parsley, for garnish


  1. Heat the chicken broth in a medium saucepan and keep warm over low heat.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add ½ onion and 1 clove garlic, cook, stirring, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms, herbs and butter. Saute for 3 to 5 minutes until lightly browned, season with salt and pepper. Drizzle in truffle oil then add the dried porcini mushrooms which were reconstituted in1 cup of warm chicken broth. Season again with salt and fresh cracked pepper. Saute 1 minute then remove from heat and set aside.
  3. Coat a saucepan with remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Saute the remaining ½ onion and garlic clove. Add the rice and stir quickly until it is well-coated and opaque, 1 minute. This step cooks the starchy coating and prevents the grains from sticking. Stir in wine and cook until it is nearly all evaporated.
  4. Now, with a ladle, add 1 cup of the warm broth and cook, stirring, until the rice has absorbed the liquid. Add the remaining broth, 1 cup at a time. Continue to cook and stir, allowing the rice to absorb each addition of broth before adding more. The risotto should be slightly firm and creamy, not mushy. Transfer the mushrooms to the rice mixture. Stir in Parmesan cheese, cook briefly until melted. Top with a drizzle of truffle oil and chopped parsley before serving.