When I got a challenge from Sheila and Ryan of Live Well 360, I was really excited. They make really great recipes (along with tons of other helpful information), so I knew they would be fun to battle. Be sure to go look at their dish before voting! You can use the form at the bottom of this post or the form in their post to vote for your favorite.
For each battle there are two ingredients. Each competitor gets to pick an ingredient. This battle’s ingredients: Anchovies and Oyster Mushrooms.
These ingredients are tough. First, neither of them are ones that I have used a lot. Second, when I have used them I usually eat them in their most basic form. I love anchovies on a bit of toast. I love oyster mushrooms sauteed in butter. Using them as ingredients is tricky. Third, oyster mushrooms have a pretty mild flavor and anchovies have a stronger flavor that I was worried would overpower the shrooms.
Fourth, I really wanted to find some fresh anchovies, but it turns out that these are not easily available this time of year in DC. All the markets I checked out only had ones that were preserved so that is what I had to go with.
All that in mind, after thinking about it for a few days, I came up with two things I wanted to try. First, an appetizer: Anchovy, Mushroom and Salmon Mousseline.
A mousseline is a pate that is processed with cream and egg white. You can use many different kinds of meat to make it. I have never made one before but I’ve been interested in them ever since reading Michael Ruhlman’s “Charcuterie.” The recipe in the book is actually shrimp based and makes a slightly larger pate than I wanted. So I reduced the amounts a bit and substituted anchovies for shrimp. I also planned to add in a bunch of oyster mushrooms to try to get some of their flavor to come through.
1) Add butter to a saute pan and add chopped mushrooms over medium heat. Cook for 5-7 minutes until cooked. Then chill mushrooms until very cold.
2) Once cold, add all ingredients to a food processor except cream. Pulse a few times. Add in cream last and pulse until it's a somewhat smooth paste.
3) Lay down some plastic wrap on top of a cheesecloth layer. Add a layer of the mushroom mixture to the plastic wrap and then place a center column of salmon down the center of the mousseline.
4) Roll up the mousseline tightly. This won't be easy, but try to get it evenly distributed.
5) Tie ends with butchers twine and lightly poach the mousseline in 180-200 degree water for 30 minutes.
6) Chill the mousseline after cooking with some light weight on it to keep it compressed.
7) Let the mousseline chill over night and serve the next day with crackers.
Recipe adapted from a Charcuterie recipe.
The important part about making the mousseline is to make sure that everything is very cold. This will help it all combine. Following Ruhlman’s advice, I put my processor bowl and blade, along with my anchovies, in the freezer about 20 minutes before I was ready to go.
Meanwhile, I added my butter to a sautee pan and added my mushrooms to the pan which I roughly chopped.
After about 5-7 minutes these were cooked. You then need to chill these before you get started.
Once you have all your stuff ready and cold, put your anchovies in a processor with the salt, half of the mushrooms, and egg white. Once it is processed, then slowly add in your cream until everything is combined. I actually had to do mine in two batches because I only have a small processor.
Once I processed all of my mixture, I wanted to use the other half of the cooked mushrooms to give some texture to the dish. I folded them in after the mousseline was processed. So half the mushrooms were processed and half were folded in.
The whole time I was doing this, I was tasting the mixture and adjusting the flavors a bit. I was pretty worried about the anchovies overpowering everything.
Now. I needed to cook this stuff to have it set. If you have a terrine pan then more power to you. I don’t and I didn’t want to buy one just for this dish, so I read through the chapter on Pates in the book and Ruhlman also mentions that you can wrap your mousseline in plastic wrap and lightly poach it.
That sounded like something I could handle although I will say that it was far from easy.
First, I laid down a layer of cheese cloth on a baking sheet, and then a layer of plastic wrap. I added a layer of the mousseline, followed by sprinkling the basil, and then the salmon, which I cut the skin off of and cut into long fillets.
This was not easy to roll up. Eventually though I got it rolled up with the salmon in the center. I tried to stay calm and work carefully and it ended up okay.
Why the cheesecloth? Well, for starters I was skeptical that the plastic alone wouldn’t just fall apart in the water making anchovy-mushroom soup. Second, it is near impossible to handle a hot tube of mousse filled plastic. So I wrapped the cheesecloth around it and very tightly secured both ends with butcher’s twine.
This felt pretty sturdy so I thought I was ready to poach. I kept my water at about 180 and let this poach for about 30 minutes. It was at this moment that Betsy walked in to our anchovy smelling kitchen wondering what the hell I was doing.
After I took my mousseline out, I encountered yet another problem with this dish. Ideally, you are supposed to weigh down the pate and refrigerate it. However, since I didn’t cook mine in a dish, I couldn’t really weigh it down because it would just flatten out.
I rigged up the following insanely complicated setup that would apply a bit of pressure to the pate while it chilled. And yes. Those are beer caps and a piece of aluminum foil.
The next day I was anxious to try this. I unrolled it and pulled out some tiny toasts to serve it on along with some arugula that I thought would work to lighten the spread up a bit.
As the caption says, I give this an honest rating of not bad. It was actually better than I thought it was going to be. The flavor was pretty good. The texture was a bit runny though and I think there is some rule that it is hard to make gray food appetizing. And unfortunately, this turned out gray which I think was due to the mushrooms. As I feared, the anchovies also completely overpowered the mushrooms.
I’m glad I made it though. It was a challenge, but gave me some confidence that hopefully I can use to make another one in the future.
The second part of the meal I wanted to make was a bit more classic: Anchovy and Mushroom Pizza.
I chose pizza because I thought that was maybe the best bet of getting the mushroom flavor to come through a bit.
I don’t want this post to go on forever so I’m not going to detail exactly how to make pizza dough. I’ve detailed it before in this post, so maybe check that out if you are interested.
Once I had my dough made, I decided that a white pizza would be a good option to show off the anchovies and mushrooms.
I drizzled about 2 Tablespoons of olive oil on my crust and then topped it with a few ounces of ricotta cheese and mozzarella cheese. I also added about 4 ounces of mushrooms and 6-8 anchovy fillets which I chopped into quarters and distributed evenly. I topped it with some pepper and basil.
In the oven for 18 minutes at 500 degrees and I was very happy with the results.
I topped the pizza with a few leaves of arugula. The tartness of the arugula worked perfectly with the other flavors. I thought this pizza was fantastic and guess what?! I could taste the freakin’ mushrooms which was really my only goal. The anchovies added a nice flavor and saltiness, but the mushrooms stayed nice and whole. Betsy, myself, and a friend devoured the whole pizza in a few minutes.
One more photo for good measure.
So that was my take on these fairly difficult ingredients. Thanks for reading this battle. Be sure to check out Ryan’s and Sheila’s creation before voting. You can vote below or on their page. Both sites link to the same poll and you can’t vote more than once.
Voting is set to close on Tuesday at noon!