The High Crime of Mushroom Substitution

I feel like I stumbled into an episode of Law & Order: Kitchen Treachery.

To the charge of Mushroom Substitution, how do you plead?


For this month’s Wine Pairing Weekend (Spring Meal Pairings for Southern Rhône Wines), I decided to try my hand at a couple of recipes I saw pop up in my Facebook feed via The Inn at Little Washington:  Chicken with Morels and Wild Rice Pecan Pilaf.

If you’ve never eaten a meal at The Inn at Little Washington, you are missing out on one of life’s greatest food pleasures.  Chef Patrick O’Connell steps into the kitchen . . . and then magic happens.  Everything he makes is a symphony.  There is no such thing as a bad bite of food at The Inn.  (A couple of years ago, I wrote about one of my experiences at The Inn.  Here’s what I thought about popcorn with $342 worth of subterranean fungus grated on top of it: Gastronomical!)

But, just because I’m making a Patrick O’Connell recipe, doesn’t mean it’ll be a symphony.  My version turned out more like a stanza.

Wegmans (my usually very reliable grocery store) let me down.  No morel mushrooms!  Usually, if Wegmans doesn’t have it . . . it doesn’t exist.  I even asked — no morels today.  And the last thing I wanted (or had time) to do is go to three different stores, or worse, go out and forage my local forest for morels (I have zero experience in mushroom identification, so I pretty much assume any mushroom I find in the wild is trying to kill me).  Oh well.  I took a deep breath, let it go, and substituted Baby Bella ‘shrooms.

I’ll give you a moment to cringe.

Other than the high crime of mushroom substitution, I followed both recipes pretty closely. Although, I wasn’t in the mood to cut up a whole chicken, so I used bone-in chicken thighs.  I don’t usually cook with bone-in chicken (I’m a creature of convenience where chicken is concerned, and bones are inconvenient).  The chicken was excellent, but I’m not convinced it would be any less excellent sans bones (the magic is in the sauce).  The presentation might not be as cheffy (yep, I’m making up words), but I’m willing to suffer that consequence.

Chicken without Morels, Wild Rice Pecan Pilaf & Roasted Asparagus Spears

And what Southern Rhône wine to pair with my Kitchen Treason?  In thinking about a wine for this dish, I realized I drink a lot of Rhône-style wines (mostly out of Santa Barbara County and Paso Robles in California) . . . but not a lot of actual Rhône wines.  So, I set off to find a Southern Rhône I was sure I hadn’t tasted before . . . Beaumes de Venise.

Beaumes de Venise (the aqua-colored AOC on the Southern Rhône map below) is most well-known for its sweet white wine, Muscat Beaumes de Venise.  But, there is a small Beaumes de Venise AOC specifically for red wines (and be sure to notice BdV’s A-list Southern Rhône neighbors — Gigondas, Vacqueyras, and the famed Châteauneuf-de-Pape — all highly regarded for their robust reds).  Grenache is king in the Southern Rhône.  And under the Beaumes de Venise appellation rules, Grenache must account for at least 50% of the blend. Syrah can make up 25-50% of the blend.  Other Rhône varieties are permitted (including white grapes), provided they don’t account for more than 25% of the blend.

Domaine la Ligière Beaumes de Venise 2010
Established in 2008 by Philippe Bernard and his wife Elisabeth Serra, Domaine La Ligière is a biodynamic vineyard, consisting of 50 hectares (I think that’s equal to half a square kilometer – math people, please check my conversion) of vines, planted to Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre.  A blend of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah.  Not as fruit driven as I expected for a Grenache dominant wine.  After a few minutes in the glass, I was able to coax out some blackberry aromas.  Medium bodied, and slightly rustic (something that bothers me not at all). A dense, smoky, leather note pulled my focus a bit, but not enough to make me put my glass down.  15% ABV.  Retail = $20ish.

Once upon a wine-time, pairing a red wine with chicken would have been a crime worse than petty mushroom substitution.  But happily, people have figured out that the old rule (pair red with red meat, and white with white meat) isn’t absolute.  There’s some wiggle room in there. Because that same smoky leather note that pulled my focus in the wine was a surprisingly happy partner for the wild rice, pecans, and my altogether wrong mushrooms.  So, even though I’m guilty of mushroom substitution, it ended well . . . so all is well.

This is my post for #WinePW, or Wine Pairing Weekend.  Our assignment this month was Spring Meal Pairings for Southern Rhône Wines.  Be sure to check out all the delicious pairings from #WinePW!

Jeff from Food Wine ClickRabbit and Rhône

Michelle from Rockin Red BlogSpringtime in the Southern Rhône with #winePW

Nancy from Pull That CorkScallops, Spring Veggies + a White CDP for #winePW

Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla:  Braised Boar Shanks With Bitter Herb Salad + Vacqueyras Beaumirail 

David from Cooking Chat:  Kale Pesto Tilapia with Wine from Southern Rhône

Martin from Enofylz Wine BlogA Tavel Paired with Spring BBQ #WinePW

Meaghan  from Un AssaggioGrilled Rack of Lamb + Arnoux & Fils Vieux Clocher #winePW

Cindy from Grape Experiences : Wine and Dine: Rosé from Costières de Nîmes and Rack of Lamb with Rosemary

Sarah and Tim from Curious CuisiniereEscalivada (Spanish Roasted Vegetables) paired with South Rhône Rosé

Wendy from A Day in the Life on the FarmWine Pairing Weekend Celebrates Spring

Jill from L’occasion (with husband Jason as the chef): Welcome Spring with Fresh Food & Le Ferme Du Mont Côtes du Rhôn

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