Watercress always seems so fancy, relegated to delicate soups and in precious finger sandwiches of chopped, hard-boiled egg and mayonnaise on crustless, thinly sliced bread laid out on silver platters at ladies luncheons. Which, now that I mention it, sound lovely.
While the life that included ladies luncheons and called for a studied knowledge of fine etiquette was, at times, a golden cage, it offered exquisite moments. In my early 20’s I had the first job out of college. One I would later recognize as the start of a long career in storytelling. I worked in sales for a wonderful, small, plant nursery and one day the nursery’s owner asked me if I could cover for him by speaking at a meeting of the Boston Junior League.
I arrived at a lovely home in blazer and tie, slides and projector in tow, to talk about the perennial introductions of Alan Bloom. Silver tea service was laid out with china cups and saucers. There were crispy cheese straws and simple syrup to sweeten the ice tea because you certainly wouldn’t want undissolved sugar crystals sitting in the bottom of your glass (brilliant!). Before my talk a senior member of the group addressed the gathered women. She thanked our hostess for the day and shared memories of a time when they were both younger and no lady would have imagined going into the city without a hat and gloves.
The afternoon and the audience were both lovely. Afterwards, I stepped out of the home into a perfect spring day and sat in my car inhaling the wet, fresh smell of the sample plants – potted perennials and herbs – that filled the back. I threw my tie and blazer on the seat beside me and drove back to the nursery where I would change into a pair of boots.
Sautéed Mushrooms with Watercress Cream Sauce
- 1 bunch watercress
- 1 tbs butter
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1/3 cup cream
- 1 tbs butter
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 lb Crimini mushrooms
- Sherry vinegar
- 1/4 cup chopped, toasted walnuts
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- Remove stems from watercress and finely chop leaves, reserve.
- Melt 1 tbs butter in a small saucepan. Add shallot and sauté for 30 seconds. Add cream and watercress stems. Bring to a simmer and cook for 3-4 minutes until cream thickens to coat the back of a spoon.
Strain sauce and keep warm over low heat.
- Wipe mushrooms clean with a damp paper towel and thinly slice.
- Melt butter with oil in a 12” skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add mushrooms and cook until they soften and begin to brown around edges.
- Season mushrooms to taste with salt, pepper and a splash of vinegar, and toss with walnuts and parsley.
- Stir reserved watercress leaves through sauce and season to taste with salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. Serve mushrooms with sauce.