Jacques Pepin’s Rice with Mushrooms and Steamed Asparagus is a most simple and tasty meal. It’s perfectly suited for cooking in an RV or a small farmhouse kitchen. In this post, the formidable Serendipity Farmhouse Mobile Test Kitchen chefs will show you how it’s done. And I, Pierre LeChat, will provide invaluable tips on technique and creative cooking.
In his post Mobile Test Kitchen on the Shenandoah, Mr. Monte described the deployment of the Mobile Test Kitchen (MTK) to a perfect site along the Shenandoah River. That clever cat documented every move made by the MTK chefs. Now, after four days of painstaking review, I have organized and evaluated all of his most excellent notes, images, and videos. Once again, Mr. Monte has been awarded Persnickety Pierre’s Paw of Excellence.
Here’s the story behind this recipe test.
In his cookbook Quick & Simple, Jacques Pépin endeavors “to make your life easier.” And, while Jacques emphasizes times savings for people on the go, I find that his recipes are easily adapted to smaller kitchens such as one might find in an old farmhouse or recreational vehicle (RV). To prove this point, the amazingly skillful Chef Blondie took on the challenge of preparing this recipe in the tiny kitchen of the 24-foot RV she calls the SFH Mobile Test Kitchen.
Level of the challenge
Chef Blondie purposely chose this recipe because of its simplicity and readily available ingredients. She knew that she would have to make adaptations in ingredients and preparations. – In her view, any amateur chef can make this at home or on an RV trip.
Selection of good-quality ingredients
“Adapt and create!” That is a foundational principle for cooking in the MTK. Chef Blondie strives to use the best ingredients. But she knows quite well that sometimes the best ingredients just aren’t available. Likewise, there might not be sufficient time for shopping for a specific ingredient. That’s when you have to substitute.
For this MTK test, Chef Blondie deftly handled three such problems:
- Rice: Jacques specifies the use of Carolina rice. Since Chef Blondie did her shopping at Aldi, there was no Carolina rice to be found. Because Carolina rice is a long grain variety, Chef Blondie substituted Jasmati rice she had in the SFH pantry.
- Stock: Jacques specifies chicken stock. Two days a week the MTK staff abstains from meat. Therefore, Chef Blondie used vegetable stock.
- Asparagus: Aldi’s is not the best place to buy quality asparagus. Because time was limited, however, Chef Blondie used the Aldi product. She had to discard quite a bit of the asparagus, but there was enough remaining that she was able to prepare the meal.
Despite the need for substitution and one low-quality ingredient, Chef Blondie’s adaptations and substitutions worked perfectly.
Use of cooking techniques
Jacques’s recipe requires that a cook possess but a bare minimum of skills. That is quite fortunate, because Chef Blondie needed Ol’ Fuzz Face to do some of the food prep. – He did moderately well and did not hurt himself.
Although technically not a technique, planning for a series of RV meals is an art form. When you are out in the wilderness, if you don’t have a key ingredient, you won’t have a meal. Chef Blondie and Chef Fuzzy have developed a very satisfactory method for making menus and ingredient checkoff sheets. – It’s really worth the time and effort.
Development of superior taste and flavor
Now, you might wonder how I can speak to taste and flavor of this dish in this evaluation. I wasn’t there when this test was conducted. It’s actually quite simple. The recipe yields six servings. Consequently, I was able to share a meal of leftovers with the MTK staff when they returned from their riverside adventure.
Because of that, I can attest to a very important point. This meal is tasty and satisfying even when served as leftovers. – Yes, the mushrooms held on to all of the original flavors. Wonderful notes of herbes de Provence continued to ring with clarity. – I can only imagine how delightful this dish was when first prepared by the able hands of Chef Blondie.
Presentation of Rice with Mushrooms and Steamed Asparagus
Keep in mind, dear Reader, a 24-foot RV is not the Inn at Little Washington. But for the staff of the Mobile Test Kitchen, every good meal deserves a proper setting.
In this case, a glass of wine bathed in the warm glow of candlelight brings joy to the heart. Likewise, a well-executed dish conceived by a master like Jacques Pepin brings happiness to the palate. – This table presentation brings both.
Rice with Mushrooms and Steamed Asparagus
- 1 large saucepan with lid
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1¼ cups coarsely chopped onion (about 6 ounces)
- 2 cups coarsely chopped cremini or portobello mushrooms
- 1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
- 2 cups any long grain rice
- 4 cups light chicken stock vegetable stock also works
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 18 stalks asparagus with firm tips
- Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan and sauté the onion for about 2 minutes, until it is almost transparent.
- Add the mushrooms and herbes de Provence and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Stir in the rice, stock, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
- Cover tightly, reduce the heat to very low, and cook for about 15 minutes, until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
- While the rice is cooking, using a vegetable peeler, peel the lower third of the stalks or cut them off and discard.
- After the rice has cooked for 15 minutes, lay the asparagus on top of it and continue cooking for another 10 minutes, or until the asparagus is cooked but still firm.
- Serve the asparagus with the rice on individual plates.