Posts filed under ‘mushrooms’

Pan-roasted mushrooms, revisited

Pan-roasted chanterellesFinding a delicious recipe is wonderful. Finding a way to simplify its preparation but still retain every bit of the deliciousness is even better.

I first posted the recipe for pan-roasted mushrooms nearly two years ago; I’d got it from a LiveJournal friend, and found it among the most tasty mushroom side dishes I’d ever encountered.

But, as written, the recipe called for cooking the mushrooms in small batches until they’re dried and caramelized, then giving them a gloss of butter, garlic and parsley … then wiping the pan clean and starting all over again with the next batch. Which, let’s face it, is kind of a pain in the butt if you’re cooking a lot of mushrooms

This afternoon, looking at a bag of lovely chanterelles I’d bought from The Mushroomery via Corvallis Local Foods, it occurred to me that it should be possible to streamline the prep without losing any of the flavor, by simply roasting all the mushrooms, moving them to a bowl, and then giving them all the garlic-butter treatment at once.

So I did. And I’m hear to tell you that – served with leftover roast chicken reheated with a bunch of late cherry tomatoes from my garden and good bread to mop up the juices – the mushrooms were exactly as delicious as I remembered, and a whole lot easier to prepare.

If you love mushrooms, you need to try this, whether you do it with wild mushrooms or tame. If the ‘shrooms are a touch dried out, as mine were, all the better. The result is chewy, dare I say meaty, savory, and rich with the gloss of butter and garlic. You won’t be sorry.

Pan-roasted Wild Mushrooms, Revisited

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • Wild (or domesticated) mushrooms, cleaned and thickly sliced
  • Fresh-ground pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • Unsalted butter, about 1 tbsp per cup of cooked mushrooms
  • Garlic – at least 1 fat clove per above
  • Fresh Italian parsley, minced – a generous handful, ditto

Method

In a large skillet, add enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Heat the pan on high until the oil shimmers but does not smoke, and glides easily across the pan when tipped.

Add a layer of mushrooms, one at a time, so they don’t touch. Season with fresh-ground pepper and a pinch of kosher salt.

After about 1 minute, reduce the heat to medium-low and continue cooking – without stirring the mushrooms – for 3-4 minutes. Using tongs, turn the mushrooms and cook for 3 more minutes, until they’re browned and fairly dry. Remove to a bowl with a slotted spoon.

Repeat for each batch of mushrooms, adding olive oil if necessary.

After all the mushrooms are cooked, wipe out the pan with a paper towel and return to medium. For each cup of mushrooms, add a tablespoon of butter, (at least) a clove’s worth of minced garlic and a handful of parsley. Stir until the butter is all melted and the garlic is turning golden (but not burning!), then return the mushrooms to the pan. Toss with the buttery mixture until heated. Remove from heat and serve, hot, as a side dish with just about anything.

Leftovers keep just fine in the fridge.

October 9, 2010 at 7:52 pm 2 comments

Christmas menu for one

Salted caramelsI’m spending Christmas the way I generally prefer to: By myself. Least I sound like a latter-day Scrooge or some sad shut-in, let me state for the record that I love the winter holidays, every single one of them, that I spend most of December in the company of friends, and that I always wind up with multiple invitations to other people’s Christmas dinners.

But my own family – down to just us four siblings now – has never made a Big Family Deal out of getting together for the holidays. Since we’re scattered all over the Western US, that spares us foul-weather travel at the busiest time of year. And because I have a play in production that closes the Sunday after Christmas, my sweetheart and I decided to do our celebrating together at New Year’s, when I’ll take the train north to Seattle for a long weekend together.

So really, at the cost of protesting too much, I love having Christmas to myself. It’s a chance to wind down a bit from the madcap seasonal socializing. I can sleep in, turn on some rock-and-roll, and indulge myself in the pleasures of cooking for one, which are quite different from the pleasures of cooking for a crowd (for one thing, there’s a lot less worry about getting everything to the table at once. For another, I can dine in my jammies if I want.)

This year’s menu is still coming together in my head, but it’s bound to be full of locally sourced goodness, thanks to the new Corvallis Local Foods online market and my own freezer, which is full of good things I put up all summer and fall.

Here’s what I’m planning, although it could change on a whim.

  • Roasted duck, probably spatchcocked and roasted at high heat with a glaze of apple cider* syrup (a simple reduction of apple cider in a wide pan until it’s thick and syrupy). I’m pondering the notion of adding either ground chipotles* or smoked paprika* to the glaze for some smokey heat.
  • Roasted fingerling potatoes* (or perhaps roasted pumpkin* – or both!) and leeks*
  • Something green. Probably just a simple salad of Romaine dressed lightly with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a lot of pepper.
  • Pie. Because (a) there must be pie and (b) I have in the freezer five pounds of beautiful white lard* from ethically grown pigs, bought for the entire purpose of making the best pie crusts ever. I’m pondering a hazelnut pie, built on my canonical pecan pie recipe, since I also have a pound of lovely roasted filberts*. Maybe with the addition of chocolate and bourbon?
  • And, no doubt, I’ll sustain myself through the day  on more than a few of the buttery-sweet-and-salty sea-salt caramels I made this week for gift-giving.  Because what’s Christmas without a sugar buzz?

* Local ingredients (which, among other things, means I don’t have to throw out my filberts for fear of  salmonella, yay!)

And then on Saturday I’ll render off all that good duck fat for future cooking use** and use the leftover duck and the last of the chanterelles* to make a decidedly nonvegetarian version of my friend Whit’s amazingly good wild mushroom pie, with some chopped dried apples* and pears* in addition to the cranberries and sour cherries*.  That hearty, savory main-dish pie has become my post-Christmas staple, and it’ll feed me for a week. (If you’re meat-averse or feeding those who are tomorrow, consider the original version of this recipe. It’s a terrific vegetarian main course – even vegan if you use an oil-based crust.)

** New readers of this blog may be blinking at all this talk of animal fat. Isn’t that supposed to be bad for us? But I’m anything but a fat-o-phobe, and my primary motivation for eating close to the ground is neither health nor politics – it’s because I find locally grown, seasonal foods taste a whole lot better than most of what I can buy in the supermarket. And, as it turns out, the whole animal-fat-is-evil message is yet another of those overblown nutrition myths.  As in all things, moderation is a grand idea, but a slice of pie on a heavenly lard-based crust isn’t going to send you to the emergency room.

December 24, 2009 at 11:41 am Leave a comment

Thanksgiving sides

I don’t really enjoy cooking turkeys. My oven is too small, for one thing; for another, as a solo cook with diminishing upper-body strength, I find wrestling the heavy, slippery bird – out of its bag, in and out of the brine, on and off the roasting rack – difficult and fraught with peril. And then there’s the carcass problem: To make stock or not? If so, when? And given that I still have turkey stock in the freezer from last Thanksgiving, is there really any point?

So when my friend Ellen volunteered to roast a turkey for our three-couple Thanksgiving feed, I was delighted. It means my oven will be free on Thursday – and it means I get to cook side dishes. And honestly, for me, Thanksgiving is all about the sides: Dressing, sweet potatoes, whipped potatoes, gravy – lots of gravy, please! – and an array of vegetables and relishes … all the lovely, rich, kitchen-intensive dishes I rarely bother with the rest of the year, when my cooking tends to one-dish meals with maybe a vegetable or salad on the side.

And when several cooks are pitching in, each bringing the dish without which it would not be Thanksgiving for them, the odds of discovering something new, or a new variation on something familiar, is high.

So. I’ve offered to make baked dressing (although Ellen will likely stuff the bird as well, but nobody objects to two varieties), sweet potatoes, smashed potatoes … and a pecan pie, because I need pecan pie on Thanksgiving, whether anyone else does or not.

The dressing and sweet potatoes will be variations on old favorites, tweaked just enough to have new interest without offending the tastes of anyone who’s got their heart set on the standards. And yes, containing local ingredients, from the final weekend of our farmers’ market, local farmstands and my garden: The yams, potatoes and onions, the herbs, the mushrooms, the eggs.

Cornbread dressing with sage and wild mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 6 cups cornbread (I like this flourless Epicurious recipe, which is solid and less sweet than my usual recipe. It makes about 12 cups; I halve the recipe.)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 pound fresh wild mushrooms (chanterelles), coarsely chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-3 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 Tbsp fresh sage, minced, or 2 tsp dried
  • 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, minced, or 1 tsp dried
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme, minced, or 1 tsp dried
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2-2 cups low-salt chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper

Method

Bake cornbread the day before and allow it to cool completely. Cut into 1-inch cubes and place in a big mixing bowl.

Melt 1 stick of butter in a large skillet. Add the onions, mushrooms and garlic and stir well to coat with butter. Sautee over medium heat until the onion and garlic are translucent and the mushrooms have shrunk and absorbed most of the butter. Remove from heat and allow to cool enough to handle.

Preheat oven to 375F. Add the mushroom mixture – including any liquid in the pan – celery and minced herbs to the cornbread; use (clean) hands to toss well (I don’t know any other good way to do this). Taste; if salt is needed, add some now, along with a good deal of black pepper, and toss again.

Beat the eggs with a fork and add to the dressing, tossing again to coat. Melt the butter and drizzle it over the dressing, toss again. Finally, add stock, slowly, stirring to combine. You should wind up with a very moist mixture. Heap into a 9×13 baking dish or large casserole and bake until lightly browned and crisp around the edges, about 45 minutes. If the rest of the meal isn’t ready (does anyone actually manage to get everything ready to serve at once on Thanksgiving), cover loosely with foil, slash a vent in the top to let some of the steam escape and set aside until dinner is ready. If necessary, tuck it back in the oven to reheat while you carve the turkey.

Maple Sweet Potatoes with Candied Ginger

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds sweet potatoes (use canned if you must. But they won’t be as good)
  • 1/2 cup real maple syrup (Tip: If you like a stronger maple flavor, see if you can find Grade B syrup)
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 3 Tbsp candied ginger, chopped
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick) cut into pieces

Method

Preheat oven to 375F. Peel sweet potatoes and cut into 1-inch chunks. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil; add sweet potatoes. Once water returns to a simmer, parboil for about 5 minutes. Drain.

In a small saucepan, combine maple syrup and allspice. Bring to a simmer.

Place sweet potatoes in a 9×13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle candied ginger over the top. Pour on the hot maple syrup, and dot with butter. Bake for about 45 minutes, until yams are tender. Can be kept, covered, on the counter until ready to serve.

This is less sweet than the standard candied sweet potatoes, and the ginger and allspice add a nice zing. If you like it even less sweet and more zing-y, substitute chopped fresh ginger for the candied ginger. If you have a bigger sweet tooth than I do, try combining the candied ginger with an equal amount of chopped pecans, a couple of tablespoons of flour and a half cup of brown sugar and sprinkling that over the top for the last 15 minutes or so of cooking for a crunchy, streusel-like topping.

You’ll note that these two dishes call for the same oven temperature. The recipes I based mine on called for a 350-degree oven for the dressing and 400 for the sweet potatoes; I split the difference and adjusted the cooking times so I can bake these at the same time, one on the bottom oven rack and one on the top. Midway through cooking, I’ll swap racks so they cook evenly. Of such adjustments are big meals made.

The pie? I’ll bake that the day before. From my mom’s recipe – the one printed on the label of the Karo syrup bottle.

November 19, 2008 at 7:18 pm Leave a comment

More mushrooms

Pan-roasted wild mushrooms

Pan-roasted wild mushrooms

I’m a fool for mushrooms: Sauteed, stir-fried, stuffed and baked, sliced raw in salads – heck, I even have a residual childhood fondness for canned mushrooms, in certain applications (on pizza, for instance).

Back when I first moved to Oregon, I fell in with a group of rogue mycologists. My second or third year here, they lured me out into the woods and taught me how to identify a few choice edible mushrooms: Morels, which grow on the eastern slopes of the Cascade Range each spring, and chanterelles, which pop up in the fall in the damp rain forests that flank the Coast Range. Besides being utterly delicious, both have the advantage of being very easy to identify; once you’ve been shown the real thing, the chance of mistaking an unfriendly mushroom for one of these two is virtually nil.

Of the two, chanterelles are easier to find, and when we get a nice, damp fall like this one, more abundant. And for years, hunting your own was the only way to acquire these gorgeous, meaty, orange-fleshed fungi. Thankfully, just as my knees have started getting too creaky for serious mushroom foraging, others have started doing it for me, and bringing the fruits of their woodsy labors to the local farmers’ markets. While “free” was a good price, $15 a pound isn’t bad, and a pound of wild mushrooms goes a long way.

One of my favorite things to do with wild mushrooms is to pan-roast them, a slightly laborious process that produces results far superior to a standard sauté, concentrating the woodsy mushroom flavors and adding a touch of caramelized sweetness.

If you can’t find or afford wild mushrooms – or if you’re nervous about them – this dish works well with domesticated mushrooms, too, particularly the more flavorful varieties: Crimini, Portobello, shiitake. In a pinch, I’ve made it with plain old white supermarket mushrooms, and it’s still pretty tasty.

Don’t be put off by the long process description. It’s easy to do, it just takes a while (or a multiple skillets) to make a big batch.

Pan-roasted mushrooms make a great side dish; they’re heavenly piled on top of a good steak or lamb chops, scattered on a home-made pizza, spooned over toasted rounds of French or Italian bread as an appetizer, or stirred into an omelet*, a risotto, or a bowl of home-made soup (onion soup with pan-roasted mushrooms=win!)

Credit for the method goes to Van Donegal, who posted it six years ago in a LiveJournal cooking community. He adapted it from Tom Colochino’s Think Like A Chef, and I’ve added a few twists of my own. Recipe evolution.

Pan Roasted Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • Olive Oil
  • A half-pound or more of flavorful, meaty mushrooms
  • coarse Kosher Salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • unsalted butter
  • fresh Italian parsley (optional, but very nice)

Method

Clean the mushrooms (a big, soft paintbrush is handy for this job) and trim off any soft or buggy spots. Slice thickly.

Mince 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, omitting the bigger stems.

Smash, peel and coarsely chop the garlic. (The smashing, with the flat side of a chef’s knife, not only makes the garlic easier to peel, but releases all those aromatic oils).

In a large skillet on medium high heat, add enough olive oil to just cover the bottom of the pan. Heat until the oil shimmers but does not smoke.

You’re going to be working in batches. Don’t try to rush it by overcrowding the pan.

Add only enough mushrooms to cover the bottom of the pan without touching each other. Add a liberal pinch of kosher salt and several grindings of pepper.

After 60 seconds, reduce heat to medium low. Do not stir. Cook mushrooms for about 4 minutes, then turn them individually. They should be browned on the cooked sides, and shrinking visibly. About two minutes after turning, add the garlic. At three minutes in, add 1 Tbsp of butter; once it melts, stir the mushrooms to coat with the butter-garlic mixture. When nicely browned, add a generous amount of parsley, stir, and remove the mushrooms to a heat-proof dish. If you like, hold the dish in a pre-heated 200-degree oven while you continue cooking additional batches.

Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel, turn the heat back up to medium high, and repeat the procedure for the next batch.

Serve piping hot. If you plan to add these to a recipe later, refrigerate them until time to use them; they’ll keep for a couple of days in the fridge, covered. Chanterelles and other meaty mushrooms also hold up surprisingly well if you spoon them into a freezer bag, press out all the air and freeze them.

A half pound of raw mushrooms will yield about a cup, cooked, depending on the variety.

* Tonight’s dinner: An omelette made from free-range market eggs, pan-roasted ‘shrooms and some coarsely grated Rogue Valley Creamery rosemary cheddar. Sublime.

November 11, 2008 at 9:23 pm Leave a comment

Market season: Not done yet

Chanterelles

Chanterelles

Our little farmers’ market traditionally closes the weekend before Thanksgiving, and while the number of vendors has dropped sharply, there’s still wonderful autumn food to be had. Yesterday it was wild mushrooms – one vendor literally had bushel baskets full of chanterelles, and another was offering more unusual varieties. I should have brought more cash. But at $15 a pound, I did score two pounds of lovely, orange-fleshed chanterelles, my favorite autumn mushroom. And I had enough money for a pound of ground lamb.

The mushrooms got spread out on newspapers to dry out enough so I could brush away the pine needles and forest duff, then separated into paper bags: One containing the largest mushrooms, which I’ll slice and dry in my food dehydrator tomorrow night; one to make a batch of pan-roasted mushrooms*, and one, along with the lamb, for tonight’s dinner (and this week’s lunches): A white-sauced lasagna of mushrooms, lamb and pumpkin. Which in the oven as I type this, and filling the house with savory autumn smells.

Pumpkin and wild mushrooms – or stronger flavored tame ones, such as Crimini or Portobello – are gorgeous together. Think of a pumpkin-mushroom soup with lots of garlic, or a creamy pumpkin-mushroom risotto. Adding lamb might be considered gilding the lily (and indeed, there’s no reason you couldn’t convert this to a vegetarian dish by omitting the lamb and using more mushrooms ), but I’ve had Morroccan and Afghan dishes that combine pumpkin and lamb to wonderful effect. So, feeling experimental and having a long Sunday evening to play in the kitchen, I came up with this.

Lasagna with pumpkin, lamb and wild mushrooms

Lasagna with pumpkin, lamb and chanterelles

Lasagne with pumpkin, lamb and wild mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 1 small pumpkin (edible variety) or large butternut squash
  • 1 lb lean ground lamb
  • 3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 stick), divided
  • 1/2 pound chanterelles or other flavorful, meaty mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed of any bad spots and sliced lengthwise
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp fresh sage, minced
  • 2 Tbsp fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 15-ounce container whole-milk ricotta (2 cups)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
  • 20 oz. fresh mozarella cheese,
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 4 cups flavorful vegetable stock
  • Olive oil
  • 1 package no-boil lasagna noodles

Method

Preheat oven to 350F

Cut pumpkin in half and scoop out fibers and seeds (you are saving your pumpkin seeds to toast, right?) Oil the cut edges, and place cut-side down on a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, until flesh is tender but not too soft. Remove from oven and allow to cool until you can handle it without burning your fingers. (Do not turn the oven off unless you plan to wait a while to finish the dish).

Meanwhile:

In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the ground lamb, breaking it up as you go. Stir in half the fresh herbs. Using a slotted spoon, remove the cooked lamb from the skillet and set aside.

To the juices in the skillet, add 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter and allow it to melt. Add mushrooms, onion and garlic, stir well and reduce heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent and the mushrooms are cooked. Stir the cooked lamb into the mushrooms and remove from heat.

Mix ricotta, eggs and half the parmesan. Slice the mozarella on the diagonal into pieces about a third of an inch thick.

In a small pan over medium heat, melt the remaining stick of butter and whisk in the flour to make a smooth roux. Gradually add the stock, whisking all the while, and the rest of the herbs. Simmer until it is thickened (This is a sauce velouté, the non-dairy version of a bechamel), remove from heat.

When the pumpkin is cool enough to work with, use a paring knife to cut around the stem and blossom ends, then grasp the peel and pull it off; it should come away easily. Slice the pumpkin radially into half-inch-thick crescents.

Assembly:

Brush a little olive oil in the bottom of a 9x13x2-inch baking dish, and layer as follows:

  • The ricotta mixture
  • Layer of noodles
  • The pumpkin pieces, arranged to cover the noodles
  • Half of the sauce velouté
  • Layer of noodles
  • The lamb and mushroom mixture
  • The ovals of mozarella, distributed evenly over the lamb.
  • Layer of noodles
  • Spoon the rest of the sauce velouté over the final layer of noodles and spread evenly. Sprinkle with remaining parmesan. Cover with oiled foil.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Remove foil, and continue baking for 25 minutes, or until top is nicely puffed and browned. Remove from the oven and let stand 10 minutes to firm up before serving.

Like all lasagnas, this one can be assembled a day in advance and then refrigerated until time to bake.

Makes 8 servings.

*I’ll blog the pan-roasted mushrooms recipe in the next day or two, when I make it. It’s a little fiddly, but produces delicious results.

November 9, 2008 at 9:39 pm Leave a comment

Zucchini: Threat or menace?

Summer squash

Still life with summer squash

I knew I shouldn’t have bought zucchini at the market last weekend. Because once the zucchini harvest begins, buying it seems redundant. Zucchini grows like a weed around here; people whose tomato crops fail, whose lettuce and peas get decimated by slugs, who proclaim themselves to be possessed of Black Thumbs – everyone grows zucchini. While its season lasts, I hardly dare leave the house for risk of coming home to find I’ve been the victim of a drive-by zucchini drop-off.

Sure enough, my friend Sandy, whose garden never fails to produce an overabundance of everything, stopped by the office this afternoon to bring me some zucchini.

To her credit, she called ahead. More to her credit, she’s growing my favorite cultivar: globe zucchini, aka “Eight-ball” or “Cannonball” zucchini.

Spherical, rather than elongated, globe zucchini have much to recommend them. The flesh tends to be a little more firm and a little less watery when cooked – and while they can be cut up and used like any other summer squash, they also lend themselves beautifully to stuffing. Just slice a bit off the stem and blossom ends to stabilize them, slice them in half, scoop out the seedy part and then fill with whatever pre-cooked filling you like. Pop it in the oven for half an hour and you have a tasty, light supper in an edible bowl. Yum.

Unfortunately, globe zucchini are hard to find in the markets, and almost never seen in supermarkets. If you happen onto some, give them a try. Or grow your own – just don’t plant too many. I’ve found that a single plant, well fertilized and watered, can produce enough zucchini that I, too, have resorted to drive-bys.

Stuffed globe zucchini, Italian style

Serves 2

  • 2 small-to-medium-sized globe zucchini*. Choose squash with tender skins.
  • Bulk Italian sausage*, cooked and crumbled, about 1/2 cup
  • Olive oil
  • 1 tsp minced fresh oregano*
  • 1 tbsp. minced fresh basil*
  • A thick slice of sweet onion, minced*
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced*
  • 1-2 Tbsp bread crumbs (I toasted a slice of multi-grain bread and tore it losely into crumbs)
  • A half dozen good-sized shiitake mushrooms*, chopped
  • Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

* Indicates local ingredients, either from the farmers’ market, from my garden or from a friend’s

Stuffed zucchini

Baked zucchini with extra stuffing

Preheat oven to 350F. Wash the zucchini. Remove a thin slice from the blossom and stem ends so the squash will sit flat in the baking dish. Cut in half and use a spoon to scoopy out the seedy middle, being careful not to break through the bottom. Place the zucchini halves in a baking dish and rub cut edges with olive oil.

In a small skillet, cook the sausage; remove it from the pan, drain off all but a small amount of fat and add a tablespoon or so of olive oil. Throw in the onions, garlic, mushrooms and herbs, and cook until soft.

Remove from heat. Stir in the bread crumbs. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary (it shouldn’t be).

Spoon filling into the halved zucchini, mounding slightly. If there’s some left, add it to the baking dish. Sprinkle parmesan on top.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until the zucchini is fork-tender and the cheese is browned. Serve hot.

You could easily make this a vegetarian dish by omitting the sausage and increasing the mushrooms, or using one of those vegetarian sausage substitutes, if you like that sort of thing.

For that matter, you can substitute almost any filling you like, as long as it’s pre-cooked (the perfect cooking time for the squash is too short for most fillings) and not too wet (because you don’t want the whole thing to collapse into a sodden lump). Thanksgiving-style stuffings are great, as are the sorts of rice-based stuffings normally used to fill cabbages or grape-leaves.

Please note: As much as I love this dish, I don’t need any more zucchini. Really.

July 21, 2008 at 8:58 pm 1 comment

Wild mushrooms

ChanterellesThe temperate rainforest climate of the hills to the east and west make Oregon’s Willamette Valley wild mushroom heaven. Springtime brings morels, and autumn – oh, autumn brings everything, from Boletus edulis (cepes) to matsutake (Tricholoma magnivelare) to my very favorites, the orange-fleshed, trumpet-shaped chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius ) and their creamy, white-fleshed cousins, Cantharellus subalbidus .

When I first moved to Oregon, nearly 30 years ago, I was lucky enough to fall in with some experienced mushroom hunters and fellow gourmands, Karen and Frank Evans, who occasionally took me mushrooming – around Mother’s Day, over the Cascades to central Oregon in search of morels, and in the fall, to the slopes of Marys Peak to find chanterelles. Along the way they often discovered and fed me other fungal treats, including the splendid Oregon white truffle (Tuber gibbosum), but morels and chanterelles are the ones I learned to recognize with enough confidence to pick and eat them myself.

I no longer go to the woods to forage for mushrooms; a cranky sciatic nerve makes it hard for me to spend a day trekking uphill and down in what can often be an elusive quest, and the competition from other pickers means it’s harder to find what’s there.

Fortunately, some of those pickers bring their harvest to market, where I’m more than happy to pay the price for these delectable fruits of the woods, when I can afford it.

This fall, sufficient rain has made for a bountiful mushroom harvest, and on a rare foray to the Corvallis farmers’ market last weekend I was thrilled to discover vendors selling chanterelles for just $7 a pound. Score!!! I brought home a couple of pounds, cleaned them up* and sliced half of them for immediate use; the rest went into my cheap little food dehydrator, where a few hours of constant air and gentle heat dried them to thin, leathery slices that will flavor winter soups and sauces.

Drying chanterelles* Wild mushrooms need careful cleaning, and when the weather’s been wet, damp varieties such as chanterelles can benefit from a bit of air-drying, too. I use a pastry brush to dust off bits of duff, dirt and the occasional hitch-hiking insect, a sharp knife to trim away any signs of decay or insect damage, and then spread the mushrooms out on a couple of layers of newspaper on the table in my breakfast nook (which has the advantage of being fairly chilly at this time of year) . Over a few hours, with occasional turning of the ‘shrooms, the paper absorbs excess moisture from the mushrooms, rendering them easier to cook and, in my opinion, concentrating the flavor. Refrigerate in an open bag with a paper towel tucked inside to help absorb extra moisture, and use within a few days. Or dry them.

Wild mushrooms can improve any dish that would normally be made with the supermarket sort, from pizzas to soups, but I think they’re best in recipes that show off their flavors and textures. Two of my favorite things to do with wild mushrooms came to me, as is so often the case, from Internet cooking communities where people share their own recipes and preparation tips. Both are fabulous ways to enjoy these woodsy treasures.

Pan Roasted Mushrooms

(Recipe originated with Van Donegal, originally posted in the LiveJournal food_porn community, with some minor tinkering by me)

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil (while I use extra-virgin olive oil for most recipes, a lighter variety works better for this recipe, because it has a higher smoking point.)
  • Any quantity of good quality mushroom, wild or otherwise (if you can’t find chanterelles, this is a tasty way to prepare brown Crimini mushrooms)
  • One clove of garlic per pan of mushrooms, peeled and smashed or coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 stick of unsalted butter (1/4 cup) per pan of mushrooms
  • coarse Kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • fresh Italian parsley (optional, but I have so much in my garden that I never skip it) chopped, 1/2 cup per pan
  • Equipment: One large, heavy bottomed skillet. Or two, if you have them – you can keep two pans going at once this way

Preparation

Clean and thickly slice the mushrooms

Add enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the frying pan; heat over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers but does not smoke

Add only enough mushrooms to cover the pan without touching each other. Add a liberal pinch of kosher salt and several cranks of pepper

After 60 seconds, reduce heat to medium low. Do not move the mushrooms about. Cook them for about 4 minutes then turn individually. They should be caramelized and brown when turned, and beginning to dry out a bit.

Two minutes after turning, add the garlic. One minute later, add the butter. Once it has melted, use a wooden spoon to move the mushrooms about in the pan so the butter and garlic cover them.

Add parsley, stir and remove from heat.

I often make several pans of these at a shot; simply wipe out the skillet with a paper towel, turn up the heat, and repeat the process.

You can eat these just as they are, as a hearty and delicious accompaniment to a meal, or scatter them on top of a home-made pizza crust, on pasta, or on toasted bread as an appetizer. Sometimes I just gobble them by the forkfull of buttery, garlicky mushroom goodness.

Mushroom pieMushroom Pie

I got this recipe from my on-line foodie friend, Whit, and it’s terrific: A vegetarian (and potentially vegan) pie that’s hearty and satisfying enough for meat-lovers, flavorful and filling enough that I’ve served it as the main course in an unconventional Christmas dinner, and nobody complained that the table lacked a roasted bird.

It also lends itself to improvisation. Try different dried combinations of mushroom, different dried fruits (or none at all, although they add a wonderful and unexpected flavor to the dish).

Ingredients

  • Crust for a two-crust pie. Use whatever crust you prefer; Whit makes a whole-wheat crust from scratch, but I’ve been known to cheat and use frozen, store-bought piecrust.
  • 3-4 small potatoes sliced very thin
  • 1 medium white onion, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic chopped (at least – I’m a garlic lover, and have used as much as an entire head)
  • Two cups of coarsely chopped mushrooms, whatever varieties you have on hand. If you’re only using ‘shrooms from the store, try a combination of portabello, crimini, oyster and shiitake. I like to use both fresh and dried (reconstituted in a little stock) mushrooms. Set aside a nice-looking mushroom or two to garnish the pie.
  • 1/2 bell pepper, sliced thin (whatever color you prefer. The original recipe called for green, but I prefer red
  • 1 cup good vegetable stock. I keep vegetable trimmings and peels (from no-spray vegetables), along with onion ends and skins, in the freezer; when I have enough, I make up a batch of stock and freeze it. If you can’t be bothered, Safeway’s “O” organics line is a decent commercial version. Just for heaven’s sake don’t use bouillon cubes – they’re way too salty and contain MSG.
  • Vegetable oil, or (as I prefer) half oil and half butter
  • Salt (I often omit it) and pepper
  • fresh oregano (I use at least a teaspoon)
  • fresh chives (ditto)
  • A handfull each of dried currants, golden raisins, dried sour cherries (or other dried fruit of your choice – I’ve used chopped, dried apricots, dried cranberries and even chopped figs), and almonds

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a deep-dished pie pan with half the crust. Reserve the other half to cover.

In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet or saucepan, heat oil to medium hot. Sautee onions, garlic and potatoes until onions are translucent but not browning. Remove to a bowl and set aside.

Add more oil and sautee the mushrooms and fresh herbs until they’re soft. Add the pepper, and as soon as they’re warmed through, return the onion, garlic and potatoes to the pan and let it cook down a bit.

Pour in the broth, and let the mixture simmer for a bit. Taste, add salt and pepper if you like, and then strain everything out of the stock (reserve the stock!)

Mix in the dried fruit and almonds, and fill the pie crust to overbrimming. Pour a bit of the stock – just enough to moisten, over the filling (save the rest to make soup!)

Cover the pie with the other crust, crimp edges and cut holes – decorative or not – to vent.

Place the pie on a baking sheet (it may bubble over during cooking) and bake at 375 for 30 minutes, or until filling begins to bubble up through the vents. If the crust starts to brown too much at the edges, wrap some foil loosely around it. Add garnish mushroom to the top and continue backing for 5-10 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.

Let it sit for 10 minutes or so before slicing and serving. A green salad and a glass of hearty red wine go wonderfully with this. And the leftovers (refrigerated, of course) can be reheated or eaten cold the next day.

Serves anywhere from 2-8 people, depending on how hungry they are, what else is on the menu and how much you want for leftovers.

One final but important note about wild mushrooms: Don’t be stupid. If you’ve never hunted mushrooms before, don’t go out looking for them without an expert by your side – and I don’t mean a book. Some of the tastiest wild mushrooms are barely distinguishable from some of the most poisonous ones unless you know exactly what you’re looking for, and photographs can be deceiving. People die from making those kinds of mistakes. Buy wild mushrooms from trusted harvesters, stick to varieties you know, and the first time you eat them, try just a little – even perfectly edible mushrooms can cause minor tummy upsets in people who aren’t used to them.

October 28, 2007 at 11:12 am Leave a comment


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