I have lived in Europe for six months (nothing compared to Neen's years of living abroad): the first three were during a quarter abroad to do research at a German University, and the second three were last summer when I did research at a large chemical company in Germany. During my first trip to Germany I wasn't much of a cook, so I generally just ate out or made large batches of food (stir-fry, pasta, etc.). Last summer, though, I started trying to cook for my friends. There were three of us (all guys) who were working in the same section and we would get together once a week at different houses and cook up dinner. We were a funny group - a German, a Frenchman, and an American. We tried to converse in different languages, but English was the best average language between us by a long shot - so we stuck with it after a few forays into other languages.
As to the cooking, I would always make the entree (sometimes one or two appetizers as well), while the other two made desert, sides, and other appetizers. It was a great system, and they were magnificent guinea pigs: I think Neen would have killed me if I asked her to choke down some of the food I prepared for them. But there it didn't matter if the food wasn't perfect - we were spending time together as a group, the food was more of an excuse. The experience did, however, help me learn how to cook and a few recipes I found during that time I still cook occasionally. One of them is this stewed mushrooms dish I made a few weeks ago (sorry for the lag in posting, but you guys know why it has happened).
The thing I like about these mushrooms is that they have such a pungent flavor - they remind me of the mushrooms I used to eat at the Renaissance Faire near where I grew up. That was always a first stop in my family, we entered in the gate, turned right and headed straight for the mushrooms. There is no such thing as too early in the morning! This is not a perfect mimic of that classic dish, but it is close enough to be delicious. I oscillate on whether or not to add red wine, beer, or neither. I think it depends on your taste - a red wine can make the mushrooms a little sweeter, while a stout beer can give them just a bit of tangy bitter flavor.
Now, the other great part about these mushrooms, is that they are incredibly versatile as left-overs. A couple days after making them the first time, we had an encore by mixing the mushrooms with some pasta, fresh-herbs (dill is great with mushrooms!), and a flour and butter roux. Bam - a great dinner in no time flat. It was really, really addictive. We had to force ourselves to stop eating just so we could have them for lunch the next day.
You can imagine how many other easy follow-ups there are once you have the stewed mushrooms.
Recipe for Stewed Mushrooms:
1 Pack of Mushrooms (cut - or not - to any size you like)
(I tend to use button mushrooms, but portabella definitely work, as do most others hearty mushrooms, I assume)
~10 cloves garlic (halved or quartered)
2-3 small onions (halve and cut in thick strips)
Warm butter in a pot over medium-low heat. Add mushrooms and onions, then heat lightly until softened. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Measure and add water to cover. Add an appropriate amount of Bouillon for 1.5 times the amount of water added. Let simmer for at least an hour uncovered. (I think it tastes better if it sits for 2-3 hours, but it is not necessary). You can add the beer or wine, as you wish, before simmering the pot.
If the liquid level begins to get to low you can add more liquid (water, wine, beer). The mushrooms will release a lot of their own liquid when simmered, so this is often not a problem.