The earth has provided a bounty of edible mushrooms that people have been harvesting since before the dawn of mass agriculture. Through trial and error we have been able to distinguish certain delectable species as safe for our consumption. Though there’s an astounding variety of mushroom species on our planet, only a select few have been selected to be included in our recipes.
Mushrooms are complex creatures with even more complex flavors and textures. When properly prepared, these wondrous fungi can provide your palate with a rich and powerful experience. For those of you out there that are a little intimidated by cooking certain types of wild mushrooms, this post might help set your mind at ease. There are a couple of different species that do require specific preparation but once you got the basics down you might surprise yourself.
Choosing the right fungi for the job is the first step in the path to culinary enlightenment. If you are making a salad or something with light delicate broth you might select oyster mushrooms. When braising rabbit however chantrelle or morel mushrooms are a little more appropriate for the job, since they are heartier and more suitable for rich complex dishes.
The next thing to consider once you have selected the types of mushrooms you want to include in your dish would be the various preparations and cooking times for each of your specimens. When cooking with tougher mushrooms such as shitake you will want to remove the stem and cut them a little smaller prior to cooking for example. I have chosen some tips for preparing commonly used wild mushrooms, and a recipe for a great wild mushroom risotto. Please make sure if you are foraging for mushrooms that you do so with a professional. Some species of mushrooms can cause illness or even death, so either go with a pro or hit your local market. Dig it!
Selecting and cleaning
When selecting your mushrooms make sure that they are fragrant and do not have any discoloration. They should not be too moist and be sure that the gills under the cap are intact and not decaying too much. When cleaning mushrooms you should gently brush away any debris or soil using a mushroom brush and quickly rinse under running cold water. If a particular mushroom is too large or the cap has curled under it is okay to cut it to release debris. Drain them well and allow them to rest on paper towels until you are ready to use them. I usually store my mushrooms in a paper sack in the refrigerator for no more than three days prior to use. It is best to clean them and remove the stems on tougher varieties right before cooking. Be sure to save the stems of your mushrooms, you can use them to make a wonderful mushroom stock.
Wild Mushroom Risotto
1/4 pound morel mushrooms, trimmed and halved
1/4 pound chantrelle or hedgehog mushrooms, trimmed and sliced 1/4 inch
1/4 pound portabello or crimini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced 1/4 inch
1/4 pound oyster mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
1 white or black truffle (optional)
6 cups mushroom stock
2-3 large shallots, thinly sliced (should yield around 1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, stemmed and chopped
3 tablespoons finely chopped scallions or chives
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste (kosher salt is fine also)
Warm your stock over low heat and hold.
In a large skillet over medium high heat 2 tablespoons of your olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter. Add your mushrooms and season with a pinch of kosher salt. Cook them stirring occasionally until they are softened or about 3-5 minutes. Once your mushrooms are softened remove the contents of your skillet into a separate container and set aside.
In the same skillet still over medium high heat add the remaining olive oil and shallots. Cook for 45 seconds to a minute or until the shallots are fragrant and start to soften, then stir in your Arborio rice. Continue to stir your rice for an additional 2 minutes until the rice has started turning golden ever so slightly making sure it is coated thoroughly with oil. Still stirring add your wine and cook until the wine has cooked into your rice, you will then start to ladle 1/2 cup of your mushroom stock at a time while stirring. Allow each portion of stock to cook into your rice until it is al dente this will take about 15-20 minutes.
Once your rice is nearly cooked remove the pan from the heat and add your mushrooms, thyme, scallions or chives, Parmesan cheese, and butter. Add your pan back to the heat and stir to mix thoroughly for no more than 30 seconds then remove from heat again, season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Garnish with shaved truffles and more scallions or chives if desired, serve immediately
2-3 cups mushroom stems and trimmings
1 celery stalk, cut in 2 inch segments (double for vegetable stock)
2-3 scallions, roughly chopped
1 shallot, quartered
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
Place all ingredients in a large stock pot and cover with seven cups cold water until the ingredients are just covered. Dimensions of the pot may effect this and so the amount of water needed to cover may vary. It is important that the ingredients are floating slightly. Bring the stock up to a gentle simmer over medium heat making sure not to boil it. As it cooks, skim any foam that rises to the surface with a large serving spoon or a shallow ladle. Add a little water if necessary to keep the ingredients covered while simmering. Simmer the stock until the ingredients are cooked through, then turn it off and allow it to cool for an additional 15 minutes. Once the stock has cooled you can skim the remaining impurities from the top.
Here are some fun fungus events listed through Brown Paper Tickets!
Saturday, November 2nd | Mushroom, Wine & Beer Train 2013 – Willits and Fort Bragg, California The 2013 Mushroom, Wine & Beer Train benefits the Mendocino County Museum. Historic Skunk Train engines leave from the Willits & Fort Bragg Depots, with the event taking place at Camp Mendocino in the heart of the redwoods of Jackson State Forest. Guests enjoy mushroom dishes prepared by local chefs, a cook-off contest judged by media celebrity guests, beer and wine tastings, mushroom walks, talks, music and more. The 2013 Mushroom, Wine & Beer Train is the signature event for Visit Mendocino County’s 14th Annual Mushroom, Wine & Beer Festival, which runs from November 1-10, 2013. Proceeds from the train event support the Mendocino County Museum’s mission to collect, conserve, present and celebrate the stories, artifacts, and lives of the people and places of Mendocino County.
Sunday, November 3rd | Learn to grow mushrooms! – Bellingham, Washington Come tour Cascadia Mushrooms’ growing facility, meet the farmers, and get a hands-on education in growing Shiitake mushrooms at home. Their crew of growers will guide workshop “students” through the mushroom houses and give a behind-the-scenes look at how delicious speciality mushrooms get from their farm to your fork! After seeing the operation, students get to experience starting their own Shiitake logs for outdoor growing at home; logs that will produce fresh, delicious Shiitake for years into the future.
Sunday, November 7th | Mushroom Mania – Now We’re Cookin’– Evanston, Illinois Last year students were treated to a demonstration by Patricia Wells on the secrets of working with truffles. While they don’t often have truffles in our kitchen, Now We’re Cookin’ does have access to an increasingly wide variety of humbler varieties of “shrooms”, which deliver on flavor in a wide variety of dishes. Hearty enough to make do as a main course, subtle enough for a soup, mushrooms are wonderfully versatile and fun to cook with. So come work with their chefs to take the mystery out of fungi!
Saturday, November 9th | For the Love of Fungi– Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania Can you say shiitake stir fry? What about grilled portobello sandwich? Which of your friends can say the mushrooms in their soup were homegrown? Now you can! Rodney Morgan, local producer of gourmet mushrooms will take you down the road less travelled, cultivating edible fungi! This workshop will cover the basics of mushroom production, including isolating cultures and expanding to production spawn, grow room and outdoor log management plus demonstrations on starting shiitake and oyster mushrooms. Come learn and taste the possibilities!
Saturday, November 9th | Get Fungi – Atlanta, Georgia Prepare to have all of your senses engaged in a most magnificent way when David Sweeney pays homage to mushrooms with his nourishing and dynamic food. The Little Tart Bakeshop will finish off with dessert:
1st Course – Raw Collard Wraps w/Chestnut Puree & Shitake Mushroom
2nd Course – Bulgogi Deobap w/Mustard Greens, Lions Mane, Sprouts, Chili Peppers
Veg Sides – Kim chi, African Squash, Oyster Mushroom
3rd Course – Matcha Panna Cotta with Yuzu Butter Cookie
Menu features Grant Park and East Atlanta Farmers Market vendors Sparta Imperial Mushrooms and Frolona Farms. You’ll also find a full bar and coffee served up by Octane, and live music with Liminal Space.
Saturday, November 16th | Mushrooms and Other “Fun-Guys”– Santa Rosa, California Have you ever wondered about the mushrooms along the trail? Did you know there are slimes native to the Santa Rosa area? Join Chris Kjeldsen, retired SSU botany professor and an expert on molds, mushrooms and other “fun-guys” and learn to recognize the amazing array of fungi and their equally amazing features here at Pepperwood. This class will primarily take place “in the field” identifying mushrooms on the preserve.
Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/67238971@N04/