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Aug 19, 2011 06:53 AM

Help me simplify this recipe, please.

This was fairly simple to begin with, but I did it in two separate steps which I'm certain can be combined. I just need a bit of direction (and maybe some reassurance).

I prepared a mushroom tomato sauce for pasta. Here's what I did:

STEP 1: I had fresh San Marzano tomatoes which I skinned (blanched briefly, immersed in ice water, etc.), removed the cores and quartered. Heated some olive oil, added the tomatoes, a small amount of salt and dried oregano, and cooked them down a bit. When they softened, I crushed them with a potato masher (a Scott Conant technique I've used before) and let them simmer briefly.

STEP 2: In a separate pan I heated some olive oil and butter, added some chopped garlic, then added a variety of fresh, sliced mushrooms (crimini, shitake, royal trumpet and oyster) along with some rehydrated porcinis which I'd chopped. I added some thyme and cooked the mushrooms until they were nicely browned. I added some white wine and simmered it until most of the wine had evaporated. Then I added the tomatoes to the pot with the mushrooms along with some of the water the porcinis had soaked in, and let the whole thing simmer for about 45 minutes. The finished sauce was delicious.

However, I've got to believe I could have done this all in one pot instead of two. The reason I didn't simply add the uncooked tomatoes to the mushrooms was because I wasn't sure how to break them down. And this is really the gist of my dilemma. I didn't want to crush the tomatoes in the pot containing the mushrooms because I didn't want to crush the mushrooms. And I thought I'd be sacrificing the texture of the tomatoes if I crushed them before cooking and added them to the pot raw. Conversely, adding the raw mushrooms to the pot with the tomatoes didn't make any sense to me at all because they couldn't brown properly.

So my question is, what would have been the best way for me to end up with the same delicious, beautifully textured sauce without having to use two separate pots?

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  1. Couldn't you cook the mushrooms, set them aside in a dish and cook the tomatoes in the pan, then combine them?

    1. First thing I see is don't skin the tomatoes. It's a needless step. I have never skinned a tomato in my life, and I've been making my own sauce for twenty years -- no complaints. Do the tomatoes otherwise as you say, dump them into a bowl, then wipe the pan with a paper towel and do the mushroons, garlic, etc. Combine for final cooking.

      1 Reply
      1. If you want the tomato skinned and crushed here is a simple way: Cut the tomato in half through the equator, grate with a box grater until all you are left with is the skin, discard skin. Super easy! (Thank you Alton Brown.)

        4 Replies
        1. re: Becca Porter

          The grater works reasonably well for a few tomatoes, it's used a lot by Mexican cooks. I usually heat them briefly over an open flame and dip them in water, much faster than boiling for a few tomatoes. For a lot, the easiest is probably to halve them, cook covered about 10 min, and run through a food mill- this removes the skins and seeds. You could do this with your dish and do the mushrooms in the same pan, but then you have a food mill to wash.

          1. re: Becca Porter

            I'm not really looking for a shortcut for skinning the tomatoes. What I'm looking for is advice for incorporating the tomatoes into the mushrooms without having to cook them separately.

            1. re: CindyJ

              Seems like you're going to have to do something involving something to wash if you don't want seeds and skins in the final dish. If you don't mind that, just wash them and chop them, they'll cook down ok but the skins will stay whatever size you cut them to. If the tomatoes are ripe, they'll cook down in a few seconds. If you like the way the dish came out, perhaps you could invite over another tomato lover and cajole them into washing the dishes (if they don't offer, try telling them you cut a finger or something)

            2. I'm kind of lazy, so while the mushrooms were cooking I'd have bashed up the whole tomatoes in the Food Processor, maybe not to the liquid stage, but close. I'm not so fussy that I object to peels, seeds, cores in the sauce -- after a while they cook down so much as to be mostly unrecognizable.

              But then you have the FP to clean.

              1 Reply
              1. re: acgold7

                Or, I could have used an immersion blender if I'd wanted that result. But a puree is NOT what I was after.

                As for tomato skins -- I suppose it's a matter of personal preference. My preference is to not have them.

              2. This is definately a one pot dish! I'd get the pot good and hot with some olive oil and saute the chopped mushrooms until a nice toasty brown then I would add the crushed tomatoes (crushed ahead) to the pot and simmer for 25 minutes. I'd check the pot for the liquid level and add the mushroom water as needed. I like chunky sauce. Also I would have added garlic and oregano, s&p to the mushrooms near the finish rather than to the sauce. Then continue to slow simmer until the bread test tells you it's dinner!

                2 Replies
                  1. re: CindyJ

                    :) that's the dip your fav bread into the pot test until your sauce tastes great!