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Mushroom and Bacon Casserole

IMG_4262I found this recipe in an old issue of Cooking Light.  I was particularly excited to see that I had everything I needed on hand for this fairly involved casserole so I set out to make it the next day.  Many of you know that I am currently taking a 30 week French cooking series at The Seasoned Farmhouse in Clintonville, Ohio.  So far, we have learned a lot about many of the building blocks to French cooking…making all types of stocks, making sauces from stocks, emulsified sauces, methods of preserving foods, and proper ways to cook everything from potatoes to chicken thighs to the perfect rice!  One of the most useful strategies I have learned (and something that I have never previously made a great effort to do) is really quite simple.  It was literally the very first lesson that our instructor, Tricia, presented to us.  It is the concept of preparing one’s mise en place for a particular dish.  To quote Tricia’s curriculum notes, “This French term defines the organization of all of the priorly cut or otherwise prepared ingredients that will be required to put the dish together up to the point of its final cooking.”   I am usually pretty careful to check that I have all necessary ingredients in the house before I start cooking but up until recently, I rarely prepped, measured and organized all parts of the recipe before I got started.  I assumed that was only necessary if you were Martha Stewart demonstrating a recipe on the Today Show and you had a staff of “people” behind the scenes measuring and chopping and pouring and sifting.  They make it look so easy!

IMG_4258Mise en place does require one thing….a healthy supply of small ramikens or bowls to hold all of your ingredients (even the salt and pepper should be pre measured).  After previewing this casserole recipe, I decided this was a great opportunity to employ the mise en place strategy.   There are a lot of ingredients and steps in this recipe so it was worth preparing ahead so that it could come together quickly. I suppose my realist commentary on mise en place would be this —   It is certainly not necessary to prepare your mise en place every time you cook, particularly when you are being creative with your own dish or you are making something you’ve made a hundred times.  However when you are tackling a new recipe, especially if it’s involved, setting your mise en place can be key to your confidence and the success of the dish.

This casserole was absolutely delicious and savory and rich with beef broth. Although it took some time to cook the broth into the grain (much like risotto), it was enjoyable and fun to add each prepared ingredient from my little glass bowls.   This dish could stand on it’s own as a meal or you could serve it as a side to accompany a steak (I’d cut the bacon down to about 3 slices if serving as a side).  Any whole grain would work fine however I’d suggest you pay attention to the package directions as to the grain to liquid ratio and adjust if necessary.  Enjoy this savory delicious winter casserole.

Ingredients:

4 cups of unsalted beef stock

2 cups of water

8 slices bacon

1 yellow or white onion, chopped

1 Tbsp fresh thyme

6 cloves of garlic, minced

16 oz mushrooms (combination of cremini, button and/or shitake)

1/2 tsp kosher salt

2 cups uncooked farro (you could use barley, quinoa, or any grain, just pay attention to the ratio of liquid to grain on the package and adjust if need be).

1/3 cup Madeira wine

1 cup shredded gruyere cheese, divided

1/2 cup chopped and drained oil-packed sun dried tomatoes, roughly chopped

2 tsp soy sauce

1/4 tsp black pepper

1 10 oz. pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Bring stock and water to a simmer in a large pan (do not boil).  In Dutch oven over medium-high heat, cook bacon until crisp.  Remove bacon and set aside. Reserve 1 Tbsp of drippings in Dutch oven.  Return Dutch oven to medium high heat and add onion, thyme and garlic.  Saute 3 minutes or until tender.  Add mushrooms and salt; cook 10 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Add Madeira; cook 1 minutes or until liquid is absorbed (this will smell so good — you could actually stop here and have some killer mushrooms to top a steak).

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Reduce heat to medium.  Stir in 2 cups of broth mixture; cook until the liquid is absorbed (5 minutes or so), stirring frequently.  Add remaining broth one cup at a time, stirring frequently until each portion of broth mixture is absorbed before adding the next cup (this may take up to 30 minutes or so — be patient, it is worth it!).  Stir in 1/2 cup gruyere, tomatoes, soy sauce, pepper, spinach and chopped bacon.  Place barley mixture in a ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese, cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.  Remove foil and bake another 10 minutes or until cheese melts.

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Recipe adapted from Cooking Light November 2013