“WHAT ARE YOU?”
“a low life, scum rag, jism breath, poor excuse for a male chef; chef!”
“WHAT ARE YOU?!!”
“a low life, scum rag, jism breath, poor excuse for a male chef; CHEF!”
The mantra we knew so well. My first food mentor, boss, and the man who was fundamental in setting me off down this winding road of delicious glory and sleep deprived misery. William Foote stood a menacing 5’8 inches tall and could cut down men twice his size (as most men were twice his size) with this ‘elegant’ piece of prose. During service the man would bark and snarl like a rabid jack russel on a rabbit hide, and if you were foolish or weak enough to let this unrelenting tirade get under your skin, Will would be at your jugular for the kill. For those 2 ½ – 3 hours everyday all you could think about was picking the little bastard up and tossing him into the pizza oven and recording his screams on your phone so you could relive the delicious wails of retribution over and over again. And yet if you could withstand the first 6 months of well meaning abuse, you would find that you had actually learned quite a bit, and if you were on the big-little man’s good side, you found that you were untouchable. For many years following my departure from his employment I would head off to Head Quarters (my first restaurant job), to visit my former tormentor, and good friend. Never did I have to pay for a single beer, pizza, or hash brown in all the years that the restaurant remained open. More than all of this, I am eternally grateful to this man for teaching me the secrets of creamy mushrooms. Any of my good friends will attest to the fact that these little creamy, fungal delights were a mainstay highlight of any breakfast feast in the house of Scotty B.
William Foote was also an avid hunter. Every year around easter he would palm all of his prep work onto us junior chef types and spend the days making big batches of all manner of stews and casseroles, creamy mushrooms, anything that could be easily reheated in one pot, out there in the middle of god-knows-where, so he and his hunting buddies could live like kings far from the convenience of civilisation.
So, many years on, when I got to an age where, rather than seeking out massive group events or parties, I’d much rather spend my free time as far away from other humans as I could get, my mind travelled back to Chef William Foote and his hunting expeditions. It became glaringly obvious to me that we could also cook up large batches of delicious, re-heatable meals, and taking this idea one step further, we began to vacuum seal these meals and freeze them solid. Not only did this ensure the freshness of our supplies but they were also excellent ice packs for the chilly bin. Pre-prepared meals cut down the washing up by ¾, and freed up precious time for important matters such as fishing, drinking, and our ever more savagely competitive card games.
As the years of camping went on, we got better and more outrageous with our provisions, everything from black beer and venison stew, beef rendang, to vietnamese pork spare ribs with vanilla, or thai red curry chicken, we never suffered a luke warm tin of beans for dinner ever again.
So this dish is dedicated to the chef, the hunter, the angry little bastard, and most of all, my friend William Foote. Here I have taken the humble creamy button mushroom dish he passed on to me so many years ago, and breathed a new life into her. I’ve chucked in some pasta and smashed it with a touch of parmesan, brining this dirty wee treat into the spotlight. One thing I have learned about living in Melbourne is that winter here fucken sux! So rather than brave the cold in the name of food journalism, we had our own (warm) little picnic inside, next to the heater.
- 150g onion chopped
- 20g garlic chopped
- 4 g thyme
- 500g cream
- 125 white wine
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a medium to large pot. Sautee off onion for around 3 minutes, or until transparent. Add the garlic and thyme and sautee for a further 2 minutes. Add the wine and bring to the boil for 2 minutes to get rid of that rugged alcohol flavour. Finally dump the cream in there and bring to the boil.
At this point I have to have a little rant about the state of Australian cream. They mostly contain thickeners which have weird and annoying side affects if the cream is cooked. Often time this cream will not reduce nicely, and the heat will cause the thickeners to fall resulting in a thin fatty mess, instead of the thick shiny sauce one would expect to result from the reduction of cream with heat. Fuck thickeners! Make sure you buy good old fashioned, whole cream.
Once then cream has come to the boil, allow the sauce to continue boiling, evaporating the liquid away from the cream, and thickening your sauce. Season well with salt and pepper. Once the sauce has reached the desired consistency pass it through a sieve and retain the liquid.
- 100g king oyster
- 70g shemiji
- 20g enoki
- 50g pine mushrooms
- 40g shitake
Preheat the oven to 180ºc. Taking a dry pastry brush, gently remove any dirt from the gils on the mushroom and the outer surface. Once they are clean, place the pine mushrooms, gills facing up, on a baking tray, drizzle with oil, and sprinkle salt and thyme. Bake the mushrooms for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile cut all of the remaining mushrooms in order according to roughly the same size. Mean while heat pot of water and boiled the pasta for 6 minutes. Place the pasta back down on the plate, arrange your mushrooms and drizzle with sauce. Shaved parmesan over the top and away we go.