Marvelous Mushrooms

by Sarah Henry on February 17, 2010 · 11 comments

in comfort food,food foraging,restaurant food

Regular readers may recall that every so often I get a bee in my bonnet about a particular kind of produce.

Persimmons come to mind. Brussels sprouts too. No surprise that a blog named Lettuce Eat Kale showcases a certain dark, leafy green, whether roasted or dehydrated.

Today, mushrooms get their due. Recently, I’ve become a tad obsessed with these forest favorites as they show themselves, post-rainy season, in my neck of the woods.

First, I felt compelled to make Mushroom Risotto. Compelled. So at a farmer’s market I stocked up on a big, brown bag full of crimini, shiitake, and oyster mushies. And I made a big, brown batch of risotto, its inherent creaminess offset by the earthy flavors of the three fungi.

My recipe is similar to this one, sans cream, from Simply Recipes. But I have nothing against cream, cream and I are firm friends, so I’ll definitely give Elise Bauer’s version a go. And I encourage you to, as well.

Then I read Barbara Kingsolver’s love poem to the mighty morel in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, her lyrical account of a year living off the land.  This exotic edible, which defies attempts at domestication, sells for a small fortune during its short season.

With a little local help, Kingsolver uncovers the mystery of where Molly Mooches (morels to the rest of us) pop up on her very own property and her family set out to hunt and gather this prized wild delight.  She finds a perfectly good home for them in Asparagus and Morel Bread Pudding, from Deborah Madison‘s Local Flavors (downloadable here).

Next up, the forageSF Wild Kitchen Chinese New Year dinner, where fungi was featured in not one but two of the seven courses, made up of mostly sustainable, foraged, local, wild ingredients, natch.

The communal dinner kicked off with the smoky subtlety of Black Trumpet Mushroom and Wild Radish Dumplings and ended on a high note with Ginger Candy Cap Ice Cream. The candy cap mushrooms offered a deep, rich, maple-syrup like sweetness to this delish dessert.

I know, mushroom-infused ice cream. Who knew it could be so good?

Then just last week, I was wowed by the dreamy creaminess of Scott Howard’s reinvented macaroni & cheese, at his restaurant Five, in downtown Berkeley. This mac&cheese only marginally resembles the American classic mama used to make. And that’s a good thing.

Little ramekins of loveliness ooze with orzo, cream, and smoked gouda, topped with sliced, braised morels, a dollop of tomato jam, and a smattering of bread crumbs. A decadently divine dish.

Ready for a recipe?

Today’s offering, Chanterelle Pate, comes courtesy of chef Mary Kuntz, whom I met while reporting on the Sprouts Cooking Club.  Kuntz has worked in many acclaimed local restaurants and taught cooking to teens in Richmond public schools for about a dozen years.

She recently ran a four-week cooking class for Sprouts attended by Kaiser Permanente employees and their families at the Westside Cafe in Berkeley.  The mushroom pate was a big hit with her students.

For a primer on choosing, caring & cleaning mushies, whether wild or cultivated, start here.

Enjoy experimenting with these woodsy wonders.

Mary Kuntz’s Chanterelle Pate

Ingredients:

1 lb. cleaned, sliced chanterelle mushrooms

1 stick butter

3-4  finely chopped shallots

2 cloves minced garlic

½ cup finely chopped Italian parsley

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh thyme (or lemon thyme)

1-2 cups dry white wine

2 cups peeled almonds (blanch & slip skins off)

salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper

Method:

1. Sauté the sliced mushrooms, shallots, garlic, parsley and thyme in the butter in a large frying pan.

2. When tender, pour over the wine, add almonds, and simmer till most liquid is absorbed.

3. Pureé in a processor in batches, add salt and pepper to taste, and some more soft butter to make richer, if desired.

4. Place in serving terrine and sprinkle with a little more minced parsley.

5. Cover and refrigerate for at least a few hours (or overnight) to allow flavors to develop.

6. Serve with toasted baguette, dark rye bread, or wheat crackers.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Anne Hamersky February 17, 2010 at 1:43 pm

Can’t wait to try this recipe, Sarah! Especially with my new vegetarian aspirations, mushrooms are a savory substitute!

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Sheryl Kraft February 17, 2010 at 6:21 pm

Mushrooms are my very favorite food. I love them in anything. Can’t get enough of them. Except, now that I read about mushroom ice cream, I’m not so sure…it’s really good, huh? Who wudda thought?!!

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Almost Slowfood February 18, 2010 at 10:53 am

It’s only recently that I’ve come to truly adore mushrooms! I’ve heard they give hunting tours in Central Park and I’d love to try it out.

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Cheryl@5secondrule February 18, 2010 at 9:32 pm

Well, friend, I’m down in So. Cal. this week and had the pleasure to visit the Santa Monica farmers’ market for the first time on Wednesday. One of the purveyors was selling chanterelles that were — I kid you not — as big as soccer balls. You could have made a bathtub’s worth of chanterelle pate with those.

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Alexandra February 19, 2010 at 2:21 pm

What a great post! When I lived in France, a friend made a mushroom three-course meal for me, with mushrooms she had found herself in the nearby forest, but never had I heard of mushroom ice cream.

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Sarah Henry February 21, 2010 at 3:13 pm

Anne — Glad to add to your repertoire.

Sheryl & Alexandra — Yep, honestly, mushroom ice cream can be wonderful.

Almost Slowfood — Gleaning in Central Park. Love it!

Cheryl — Chanterelles as big as soccer balls? I’m suitably impressed.
What do you think they’re feeding ‘em in LALAland?

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Jennifer Margulis February 22, 2010 at 10:29 am

We’ve gone hunting for chanterelles once and loved it. Such a nice activity, and the mushrooms were pretty yummy too! The only problem was we were terrible at it. Luckily we were with friends who found them as if by magic!

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