Friday, September 9, 2011

50 Women Game-Changers (in Food): #14 Elizabeth David - Mushroom Polenta Pie

In May '11, Gourmet posted a list of 50 Women Game-Changers (in Food) that runs the gamut from food writers to cookbook authors to television personalities to restauranteurs to chefs to food bloggers.  Some are a given.  Some are controversial.  Speaking the names of some brings fond childhood memories.  Speaking the names of others will make some readers cringe.  And of course, some of our favorites were not even included.  We food-lovers are a passionate bunch of people and whether we agree or disagree, every woman on this list has earned her place for a reason.  Being a woman who is passionate about food (cooking, eating, talking about, writing about, photographing), when I caught wind of Mary from One Perfect Bite's idea of cooking/blogging her way through each of these 50 women...one per week...I knew I wanted to join her.  Many of these women paved the way for us in culinary school, in the kitchen, in cookbooks, in food writing, and on television and I think it is a fabulous way to pay tribute to their efforts.  Some of the women on the list have been tops with me for years.  Some I have heard of (perhaps even seen, read, or cooked from) before.  And there are even a handful that I am not familiar with at all.  I excited to educate myself on each of these women game-changers and hope you look forward to reading along.  We are going in order from 1 to 50.
the "Gourmet" prompt...
14. Elizabeth David- Not that this is a competition, but David’s French Country Cooking predated Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking by a decade. The terribly influential British writer didn’t so much teach a nation to cook French as inspire one to think Mediterranean.

Going into this week, I didn't know who Elizabeth David was.  After poking around a bit, I find her utterly fascinating.  If this week hadn't gone by lightning-quick, I probably would have spent some quality time getting to know her.  But since I didn't, what I can tell you is: A) she was gorgeous,  B) through several marriages and several countries, her passion for cooking "true" food was born, and C) She led a totally colorful personal life that I know will make for some good reading down the line.  Read more here.

worth further exploration:   (article) Cooking the Book: Do Elizabeth David's recipes stand the test of time?, (film) Elizabeth David: A Life in Recipes, (recipes) BBC site, (books & cookbooks) Is there a Nutmeg in the House? by Elizabeth David, An Omelette and a Glass of Wine by Elizabeth DavidEnglish Bread and Yeast Cookery by Elizabeth David, South Wind through the Kitchen: The Best of Elizabeth David, Book of Mediterranean Food by Elizabeth David
Mushroom Polenta Pie
adapted from Elizabeth David 
serves 6-8

polenta
8 oz. (scant 1⅓ c.) polenta
3 c. mushroom stock/mushroom soaking liquid/water

bechamel
2 oz. butter
2 Tbs. flour
2½ c. warmed milk
kosher salt
freshly ground black or white pepper
freshly grated nutmeg
2 oz. freshly grated parmesan cheese

mushrooms
8 oz. mixed mushrooms (I used shiitake, oyster, crimini, black trumpet)
2 oz. butter

to finish
~½ oz. freshly grated parmesan
polenta: Combine polenta and liquid in a sauce pot with a few pinches of salt over medium heat.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and stir with a wooden spoon every now and again, while cooking ver slowly for ~15-20 minutes.  Set aside to cool a bit.

bechamel: In the meantime, heat the butter and flour to make a loose roux.  Cook out for about a minute, then whisk in the milk.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer.  Season, to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Grate some nutmeg over the top.  Smell the glory that is bechamel.  Continue to simmer very slowly for ~13-15 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Whisk in parmesan cheese. 

mushrooms: Wipe any dirt from the mushrooms and cut them into slices. Cook
them for ~3 - 4 minutes in butter.*

Butter a wide shallow cake tin or fireproof dish. Spread ⅓ of the polenta evenly across the bottom of the pan.  Scatter ⅓ of the mushrooms evenly over the polenta.  Ladle ⅓ of the bechamel over this.  Repeat two more times.  Grate a bunch of parmesan over the very top of the pie.  The second and third layers of polenta are kind of tricky since you can't really "spread" them anymore, per se.  What I did was sort of patted out a thin layer and lifted it into place in the pan.  It didn't fit tightly like a cap, but it seemed to work.

Slide into a preheated 375° F oven for ~30 minutes until there is a bubbling
golden crust on top of the dish. Serve as is or with a lightly dressed green salad for a totally comforting meal.
*In Milan white truffles are
used, when in season; which is one way of turning a peasant dish
into a rich feast.

Elizabeth David (12/26/1913 - 5/22/1992)
Everyday holds the possibility of a miracle. ~Elizabeth David

Who is cooking along with these 50 Women Game-Changers?
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