Spirits and Mushrooms - Recipes for beef, pork and fish

The Spirits of Mushrooms


Mushrooms and wine are a classic pair, but mushrooms also have very happy flavor affinities with stronger spirits.


When serving sautéed mushrooms with meats, you can finish the sauté with a splash of brandy. Watch out for the possible flare of alcohol burning off. This can be either dangerous or marvelously exciting depending on whether you are prepared for it or not. Simmering for a few minutes will evaporate almost all of the alcohol. Alcohol has a lower boiling point than water so it evaporates more quickly.  Brandy, which is made from grapes, adds both a little fruit and deep flavors. You can also try a splash of scotch whiskey. Whiskeys, especially the smokier single-malt types, are excellent with hearty mushrooms like shiitake, Velvet Pioppini™ and Maitake Frondosa™. Try that on your next steak. A dollop of heavy cream or a swirl of butter wouldn’t hurt.


To accompany pork, try Calvados, French apple brandy. Calvados is made in the Normandy region, a famous apple growing area. If you want to buy American, Laird’s Applejack has a fine pedigree, but don’t use the cheap substitutes. You want apple brandy, not apple-flavored brandy.  


For fish or chicken, any of the anise-flavored liqueurs provide a delicious and unusual pairing.  Think tarragon. (Of course, if you don’t like licorice, you might want to stay away.) Spirits in this category include French Pernod and pastis, Greek ouzo, and Italian Sambuca. The sweetness can be moderated with a little citrus juice or cream.




Steak with Maitake Frondosa™ and Scotch


For four steaks, your favorite, grilled the way you like it.


3 Tablespoons shallots, finely diced

3 Tablespoons butter or oil

6-8 ounces Maitake Frondosa™ mushrooms torn into pieces the size of your little finger

4 tablespoons Scotch

Salt and pepper

3 additional Tablespoons butter, cold


Sauté shallots in the first 3 Tablespoons of butter. Shallots scorch easily so keep heat to a medium flame. When shallots have softened add Maitake and stir and flip to move uncooked mushrooms down to the surface of the pan. When mushrooms have softened a little add the Scotch. Watch out for a flare-up if the rapidly evaporating alcohol meets the flame at the side of the pan. Simmer a minute or two longer, remove from heat and swirl in the remaining butter, a couple of pieces at a time. Serve immediately. This is the technique known as beurre monté, or “mounting” with butter. The trick is that pan shouldn’t be too hot when you add the cold butter. You want the butter to melt without separating. It tastes just as good when separated, but the appearance and mouthfeel when properly mounted is worth a little practice, and you get to eat all of your “mistakes.”


Pork Tenderloin with Brown Clamshell™ mushrooms and Calvados

Serves four


1 ½ pounds pork tenderloin

2-3 tablespoons light vegetable oil – grapeseed is excellent


½ cup chopped leek

4 ounces Brown Clamshell™ mushrooms, separated into single stems

½ cup green apple, peeled and finely diced

3 Tablespoons butter

¼ cup Calvados

½ cup low-sodium stock

Three large leaves fresh sage, cut in fine slivers


Trim the fat and silverskin from the tenderloin, Cut on the diagonal and pound very lightly. Ideally you will have eight pieces, one large and one small for each person. Set aside.


Sauté the leek, apples and mushrooms all together in the butter over medium low heat. Cook until apples begin to soften. Add Calvados and raise heat to high. When the brandy has almost evaporated add the chicken stock and fresh sage. Simmer and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside while you sauté the tenderloins.


Lightly season the pork tenderloin pieces with salt and pepper and dredge with flour, shaking off all excess. Sauté over medium heat in the vegetable oil for 2-3 minutes per side. Hold cooked pieces in a warm oven until all the pork is done, then plate and spoon the mushroom sauce on top. Garnish if desired with additional leaves of fresh sage.


Tilapia with Trumpet Royale™ Mushrooms and Pernod

Serves Four


1 ½ pounds of tilapia


8 ounces Trumpet Royale mushrooms, sliced

¼ cup sweet white onion, diced

4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ cup fresh tomato, diced


¼ cup Pernod or other anise flavored liqueur

¼ cup dry white wine

3 Tablespoons meyer lemon juice


Smaller mushrooms may be sliced lengthwise, larger ones should be cut on the diagonal. Sauté Trumpet Royale™ and onions in olive oil over medium-low heat until mushrooms are almost cooked through, stirring frequently. Add diced tomato and cook three minutes more. Add Pernod and wine and simmer until liquid is reduced by half. Finish with meyer lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. If meyer lemon is not available, substitute 2 Tablespoons lemon juice and 1 Tablespoon of fresh orange juice. You can also eliminate the citrus and add 1/3 cup of heavy cream and some minced tarragon. The two preparations (citrus or cream) are distinctly different, and both are delicious. Keep mushrooms warm while cooking the fish.


Lightly salt and pepper the tilapia fillets. Brush top with olive oil and broil until the thickest part of the fish will flake with a fork. 8-12 minutes. Cooking time will vary depending on your broiler. This preparation is also excellent with salmon, true cod and petrale sole.


Reserve twelve large slices of mushroom as garnish. Top the fish with the tomato and mushroom mixture. Fan three slices of the reserved Trumpet Royale on top of each serving.