Here’s a recipe to go with what I posted a couple of days ago about winter-hardy henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) and related edible Lamiums.
A couple of folks responded to my post by mentioning that henbit and its relatives (also called by the unfortunate common name “dead nettle”) have a mushroom-y taste. Okay, I thought, let’s work with that rather than trying to hide it. In fact, let’s boost that mushroom flavor up several notches.
Here I’ve used henbit greens instead of the usual spinach or nettles in fresh pasta. You don’t need a pasta machine to make this dish: the noodles are deliberately hefty and you can roll them out by hand. You don’t even need a rolling pin: an old wine bottle (label soaked off and removed) will work equally well.
The sauce uses wild mushrooms (fresh or dried) to play off that shroomy flavor in the henbit. Today I used hen of the woods, playing with the “hen” theme. But use whatever tasty mushrooms you’ve got (yes, even supermarket button mushrooms if there’s no alternative).
Henbit Noodles with Creamy Mushroom Sauce
Serves two as a main course, four as a side dish
1/2 pound henbit leaves
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan or peccorino romano cheese, divided
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
3/4 cup semolina flour
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms or reconstituted from dried (save soaking liquid)
1 cup mushroom stock (or soaking liquid from dried mushrooms) OR vegetable or chicken stock
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1/2 cup light cream
1/4 teaspoon dried or 3/4 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
freshly ground black pepper
salt to taste
For the Noodles:
1. Simmer the henbit leaves in very little water for 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and immediately run cold water over them. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
2. Pulse the cooked henbit and the peeled garlic in a food processor (or finely mince with a knife).
3. Add the egg and puree the ingredients (or mash together with a fork if not using a food processor).
4. Reserve 1/3 cup of the all-purpose flour. Whisk together the rest of the all-purpose and the semolina flours in a large bowl. Dump the contents of the bowl out onto a clean counter or cutting board. Make a well (indentation) in the center.
5. Pour the egg-henbit mixture into the well in the center of the flour. Mix the flour into the liquid mixture with a fork.
6. Knead the mixture by hand for 10 minutes (or in a stand mixer with the bread hook or food processor with the dough blade until the dough comes together into a ball). Kneading by hand is better because you have more control of how much flour ends up in the dough: stop incorporating more as soon as it is possible to knead the dough without it sticking to your fingers.
7. Cover the dough with a clean, damp kitchen towel and let it rest for 30 minutes.
8. Lightly dust your work surface with flour. Cut the rested dough into quarters. Roll one of the quarters out with a rolling pin or an old wine bottle until it is as thin as you can get it. Turn the dough over frequently while you roll it out, and dust it with additional flour as necessary to prevent it from sticking to your rolling implement.
9. Give the rolled out dough one more light sprinkling of flour then roll it up into a loose cigar shape. Cut crosswise so that it forms coils of 1/4 to 1/2 – inch wide noodles. Uncoil the coils and lightly dust them with additional flour.
For the Sauce:
1. If you’re using dried mushrooms, first soak them in boiling hot water for 15 minutes. Drain (reserving the soaking liquid) and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Whether you started with fresh mushrooms or dried, coarsely chop them.
2. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium low heat. Add the mushrooms and a little salt. Cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms give up their liquid and then most of the liquid evaporates.
3. Add 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Raise the heat to medium high.
4. Add the thyme and the white wine and cook, stirring, for another 2 minutes.
5. Add the mushroom soaking liquid (if you started with dried mushrooms) and/or the stock a small splash at a time, stirring constantly. Each addition should thicken before you add more liquid. When it is all the consistency of a thick gravy, turn off the heat and add the cream and salt and pepper to taste.
Bring It Together:
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the fresh henbit noodles and stir gently. Cook for 2 – 3 minutes. Drain. Return to the pot, add the sauce and 1/4 cup of the grated cheese. Toss gently to coat the noodles with the sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.
2. Serve with additional grated cheese and a little minced fresh henbit sprinkled over as a garnish (or parsley).
“This is an essential book for anyone interested in food preservation.” – Ellen Zachos
“A book that wild food gatherers of all skill levels will want to own.” - Sam Thayer