Mushrooms aren't something my family eats often, for two reasons. First of all, our weekly produce boxes never contain them. Secondly, our kids don't like them. But I like them! So to celebrate the first soggy weather we've had in four years of drought, I slow cooked a pound and a half with coriander, black pepper, bay leaves, thyme and rosemary in wine.
This forestial stew, with buttery smashed squash underneath, was the perfect supper to warm us while we celebrated rain. Not always an easy thing to do when it is cold outside, but mushrooms remind me of walks in the cool damp of California's coastal redwood trees, a rare and towering speices that grows only here. Even though these trees get much of their water from fog, they are threatened by this lack of rain, along with the Sierra Nevada's giant sequoias, native live oaks and many other varieties.
It's refreshing to think beyond the human cost of not enough water. Some of these trees have been alive for 500, even 2,000 years: much longer than water from the Sierra has been piped in to support human existence in this seasonally arid and now drought-ridden place.
So I'm celebrating a hopeful end to the drought with mushroom stew. Because the beautiful and unique forests of northern California and the mushrooms that grow within them are dependent upon the water rain brings, and so are we.
My kids didn't eat the mushrooms, I served them pork chops instead. But they did eat the squash-mash with no complaints. I mixed potatoes in with the butternut, plus butter and salt, which made the squash seem less squashy. They have never voluntarily eaten butternut, or squash of any sort, until now. Which gives me something else to celebrate, in addition to the rain!
Nigel Slater's recipe for Mushroom Bourguignon is part of his vegetarian Christmas dinner post of 2014 for The Guardian, and is also on p. 418 of his latest book, Kitchen Diaries III. Both include a recipe for smashed butternut squash. Or you can try my updated version of Butternut Potato Mash, adapted to please squash-averse kids.