The other night, feeling kind of bloated after all the fine holiday dining, we decided to take a break with a lighter, low-fat mostly veggie dinner, but since it was cold and gray, we still wanted something warm and filling.

The solution became obvious when I wandered into the local yuppie market and found a new offering: Buckets of mixed wild mushrooms, domesticated and shipped by an outfit in Pennsylvania called "Pennsylvania Exotics."

I brought home a quarter-pound box of mixed shiitakes, oyster mushrooms and crimini, and also a bag of dried morels -- a favorite hereabouts -- and pulled together two different Northern Italian recipes (one from Marcella Hazan, one from Ed Giobbi) plus a few procedural notions of my own, to come up this delight.


Soak 1/4 ounce dried morels in 1 1/2 cups warm water for 30 minutes, then drain, reserving the soaking water after straining it through paper towels or cheesecloth to get the grit out. Rinse the reconstituted morels very well, then slice into nice fat rings and set aside.

Rinse and dry 1/4 pound fresh wild mushrooms. (I used the store-bought shiitake/oyster/crimini combination mentioned above, but any combo will do, or you could use dried porcini -- treated as the morels, above -- and/or domestic button mushrooms.)

Peel two baking potatoes and slice them in fairly thick (1/4 inch) slices.

Slice two or three garlic cloves (or to taste) very thin. Chop four to six anchovies fine.

Have available red-pepper flakes, black pepper and salt, and a lightly greased casserole or pyrex baking dish.

Preheat the oven to 400F.


Put the potatoes in salted water to cover and bring to the boil, covered. Let simmer for about 5 minutes or until they start to cook but remain underdone. Drain.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a sautee pan, add the garlic slices and red-pepper flakes and cook until the garlic is sizzling and starting to brown. Add the chopped anchovies, stir, then add all the mushrooms, the salt and the pepper, and sautee just until they start to wilt. Then salt, pepper, and add about 1/2 cup of the reserved mushroom water; cook over high heat until the liquid is almost completely reduced.

Put the potatoes and the mushrooms in the casserole, stir once or twice, and moisten with another 1/2 cup of the mushroom water. Pop in the oven and cook for 20 minutes or so, stirring once about midway in the process.

With a green vegetable (we used broccoli Italian style, steamed until crisp-tender, then finished by tossing in a little hot olive oil with garlic) and a loaf of 'talian bread, this made a satisfying winter meal, so "meaty" with mushroom flavors that it stood up very well to a dry red wine, a nice inexpensive Chianti Classico.