Last weekend, starting on Friday, we decorated our tree and house in earnest, and it was so fun! I invited my mom over to help us decorate. My mom has some health issues (heart problems, blood pressure problems, arthritis, some intestinal issues), and so whenever I ask her over, I always suggest that she bring her meds with her so that if she’s either not feeling well or, more hopefully, having such a good time that she doesn’t want to have to leave to drive home, she has an option to stay the night. Having her meds and such with her doesn’t obligate her to stay the night, mind you, but it does give her an option.
Given the weather forecast we had last weekend — freezing precipitation and such — I suggested to Mom that she bring enough meds and such to last her at least two nights.
To add an additional sense of fun to the festivities, I also decided to give a hand at making the Tree Trimming Supper from my Williams-Sonoma Complete Entertaining cookbook. This stunningly gorgeous cookbook has given me more inspiration in more ways than I ever thought possible — and it’s something I never would have thought of for myself. At first glance, I’d thought it was on the pretentious side, but I’ve come to learn that it is chock-a-block full of approachable recipes — many of them quite healthy or easy to make healthier — and ideas for making any event, be it formal or informal, more festive.
As Complete Entertaining points out, trimming the tree tends to be a rather big project, and so it’s important to keep the meal simple. In the cookbook, their suggested menu is
- Pappardelle with Mushroom Sauce
- Caesar Salad
- Rosemary Bread
- Mascarpone Budino with Sun-Dried Cranberry Compote
Williams-Sonoma recommends homemade pappardelle or store-bought fresh pappardelle. The Rosemary Bread is made with a starter, but not all of the starter is used in the baking of the two Rosemary loaves, so I’d either have to bake up about four more loaves of bread in the week, find some other uses for the starter, or throw the starter out (which goes against my grain). And I’m fairly sure I’d have to drive to Tyler to be able to get mascarpone and sun-dried cranberries.
So my own take on the Tree Trimming Menu became this:
- Pasta with Mushroom Sauce
- Insalata Capricciosa
- Cherry Cheesecake (No-Sugar Added, of course)
Insalata Capricciosa is from the pizza making party menu in the Complete Entertaining coookbook, and it’s essentially a salad made “with whimsy” — in other words, a salad made up of whatever you have on hand and that sounds yummy to you. My mom made us a yummy salad and I made the mushroom sauce, baguettes, and cherry cheesecake — with Greek yogurt cream cheese, of course!
Williams-Sonoma calls for a wide variety of mushrooms in their mushroom sauce. I used mushrooms I could obtain locally and relatively affordably: white mushrooms and baby bella mushrooms. I left out the pancetta in Williams-Sonoma recipe (they assure us it is optional, anyway), and with a few other tweaks, I made this recipe my own.
This meal was absolutely, positively YUMMY! The onions and mushrooms smell positively d-i-v-i-n-e as you sauté them, and once the meal is ready, you are salivating.
And you don’t need to be trimming a tree or otherwise decorating your house to enjoy it! This recipe has definitely earned a repeat spot on our menu. 🙂
So whether you’re celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas or the simple fact that it’s a day of the week that ends with a “y,” 😉 give Pasta with Mushroom Sauce a try — it will add a yummy, festive air to any occasion.
Pasta with Mushroom Sauce (Serves 6 as a main dish; halves easily)
- 3 yellow onions, cut into fourths and thinly sliced
- 2 pounds of a variety of fresh mushrooms (I used white mushrooms and baby bellas), cleaned and sliced, halved, and/or quartered, depending upon size of mushrooms and your preference
- Olive oil or canola oil (approximately one to two tablespoons)
- Three tablespoons of butter
- Minced garlic to taste (be generous)
- Fresh or dried sage to taste (I used dried)
- Fresh or dried thyme to taste (I used dried)
- Coarse-ground black pepper to taste
- Splashes of white wine (or you could use red) to deglaze pan and make sauce (1/4 to 1/2 cup; eyeball it)
- Vegetable bouillon to taste (one cube or one or two teaspoons)
- 12 ounces spaghetti, fettucine, pappardelle, or other desired pasta, cooked al dente
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup reserved pasta water
- Parmesan or other desired cheese for garnish
- Slice onions into quarters and then thinly slice. Gently clean mushrooms (I rinse them briefly under running water and then gently wipe clean and dry with paper towel) and slice, halve, and/or quarter. (You can do this step 12 to 24 hours ahead and keep onions and mushrooms refrigerated until ready to make the sauce.)
- In a large (12″) non-stick skillet, heat a small amount of olive oil (just barely enough to coat the bottom of the pan once heated). Add in one tablespoon of butter, then add in thinly sliced onions and sauté (medium to medium-high heat), stirring occasionally, until softened and they just being to brown/caramelize (5 to 10 minutes). I cooked them covered for the last half of that time — this lets the steam do part of the work, which, combined with using a non-stick skillet, enables me to use less oil. Remove onions and any cooking juices to a large bowl.
- Return skillet to burner. Add another small amount of oil (just enough to coat the bottom of the pan when heated). Add 1 tablespoon of butter and half of the mushrooms. Sauté (medium to high heat), stirring occasionally, until mushrooms just begin to soften and have begun releasing their juices. (Amount of time will depend upon the kind of mushrooms used.) Once again, putting the lid on the skillet during part of the cooking time adds the power of steam to the cooking process. Remove mushrooms and accumulated juices to the bowl with onions.
- Return skillet to burner. Add another small amount of oil (just enough to coat the bottom of the pan when heated). Add 1 tablespoon of butter and the remaining mushrooms. Sauté (medium to high heat), stirring occasionally, until mushrooms just begin to soften and have begun releasing their juices. (Amount of time will depend upon the kind of mushrooms used.) Once again, putting the lid on the skillet during part of the cooking time adds the power of steam to the cooking process. Remove mushrooms and accumulated juices to the bowl with onions and mushrooms.
- Meanwhile, bring salted water to a boil and cook desired pasta to al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 to 3/4 cup pasta water (eyeball it).
- If necessary, lightly spritz non-stick skillet with oil or cooking spray. Lightly brown garlic. Deglaze skillet with a generous glug of white (or red) wine (about 1/4 to 1/2 cup — eyeball it). Stir in reserved pasta water and vegetable bouillon. Bring to a boil and reduce to desired amount. Add in mushrooms, onions, and any accumulated juices. Season to taste with sage, thyme, and coarse-ground black pepper. Stir in drained pasta and simmer until heated through and desired consistency. (If too dry, add a bit more liquid.)
- Garnish each individual serving with Parmesan or other desired cheese.
- Refrigerate leftovers.
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