I think one of my favorite things about writing a novel is the amount of research I get to do. My completed novel, The Breakaway, takes place in two states: California and Colorado. Not much research I have to do there. I live in the Western United States.
So what would I have to research about a story where the main character stays in one house for over a year – only leaving to go into the backyard?
One thing I researched was food. The Breakaway has lots of food in it. Writing it made me hungry all the time! I thought I would share a specific scene from my novel, and then give you the recipe I researched to write this scene.
So what do you research for your novels? For Monarch, I’ve researched things ranging from terrorism and drugs to the best way to clean a severe cut (hydrogen peroxide is not the best thing to use, by the way, and may cause more harm than good). I’ve also done a lot of research on Monarch butterflies. Hmmm, I wonder why that is.
Pasta with Sauteed Mushrooms and Thyme
serves 4 as a main course or 6 to 8 as a side dish
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3-4 large shallots, chopped fine (about 1 cup)
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
10 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps wiped clean and sliced 1/4 inch thick
10 ounces cremini mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon juice from 1 lemon
Ground black pepper
1 pound camanelli or farfale
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, freshly grated (1 cup)
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1. Bring 4 quarts water to a rolling boil in a large pot.
2. Meanwhile, heat the butter and oil in a skillet over medium heat until foaming. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Increase the heat to medium-high; add the shiitakes and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Add the cremini and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until the moisture released by the mushrooms has evaporated and the mushrooms are golden brown, about 8 minutes. Stir in the thyme and cook 30 seconds. Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl and set aside. Add the chicken broth to the skillet and bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan; off the theat, stir in the cream, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.
3. Add 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta to the boiling water and stir to separate the noodles. Cook until just shy of al dente. Drain and return the pasta to the pot.
4. Add the mushrooms, chicken broth-cream mixture, cheese, and parsley to the pasta. Toss over medium-low heat until the cheese melts and the pasta absorbs most of the liquid, about 2 minutes. Serve immediately.