9.19.11 Mycology Today
Enough with the mushrooms! Or is it? I have felt myself becoming obsessed this past week. Any free moment I have, I'm stealing into the woods to search for black trumpets, chanterelles, hen-of-the-woods and chicken mushrooms. And I've been richly rewarded! We're supposed to get more rain this week, and I think by Friday a new crop may be sending out its siren song. I found so many maitakes that I gave half of them to my friend Tomo, who is connected to many of NYC's best Japanese chefs. Apparently they're all excited to cook with them! (I'll try to parlay this into an interview, or at least an interesting new mushroom recipe.) By now we've eaten mushrooms on toast, mushroom risotto, mushroom tempura and mushroom soup. I've frozen and dried enough to see me through the winter, but I still fantasize about what might be around the next tree! What's wrong with me??
Actually, it was G who found this patch of black trumpet mushrooms. They are so well-disguised among the greyish-black leaf litter that you really have to peel your eyes. I was so excited I almost wept tears of joy!
finding a patch of wild mushrooms is a natural high
G said that mushroom hunting unites all my passions: love of nature, love of food and love of a good bargain. There's nothing like the thrill of foraging a free dinner from the forest. (Except maybe finding a Dries van Noten jacket on deep discount at Barneys.)
i found these yellowfoot chanterelles growing in damp, mossy areas
I found several kinds of chanterelles: mostly the Craterellus tubaeformis you see above, but also the very similar Craterellus lutescens, as well as the all-yellow Cantharellus cibarius. I did not eat these fresh (I was too overwhelmed with black trumpets and hen-of-the-woods) but instead dried them to use later this winter.
trumpet mushrooms can actually range in color from salmon to grey to black
Craterellus cornucopioides is the black chanterelle or black trumpet mushroom, sometimes also called "horn of plenty." In truth, these might also be Craterellus fallax—it can be a little confusing. But don't worry, they're all edible! They have a thin, brittle flesh and a fragrance that some say is reminiscent of apricots. Can't say I concur, though they do seem to emanate a slightly funky sweetness.
the truly black ones are very striking
These were from the biggest patch we found, near a little stream, where the leaf litter was very thick and old. When we got home, I simmered a couple of handfuls in cream and then whisked that into some eggs from the farm. Scrambled in butter over low heat they were absolutely divine. (Although they did turn a slightly creepy grey color!)
drying really shrinks them down
I had so many, I could experiment with different ways to dry them. Some I left out in the sun during the day; I brought them in at night. This took a few days for them to be truly dry. Others I spread on a baking sheet and dried in the oven. The lowest mine goes is 170º, so I would let it come to temp, put the mushrooms in and then turn the oven off. I did this a few times, and ultimately they dried out all the way. Some of these I ground to a fine powder in my new spice grinder
. This was truly a revelation! The fragrance smacks you in the face with a blast of umami that is a hint of the extreme flavor this earthy dust imparts.
dried mushroom powder give off an intensely pungent aroma
If you can't get your hands on any wild-foraged mushrooms, fear not. You can find dried wild mushrooms at pretty much any good specialty store. It's debatable which are best, but shiitakes, porcinis and chanterelles will all do. The black trumpet mushroom powder definitely has a slight funk to it. Once you've ground up your mushrooms, there are so many uses for this stuff:
• Sprinkle into scrambled eggs, soup bases, risottos and sauteed winter greens.
• Add a few tablespoons to a bottle of good olive oil and let it infuse for a week or two, then strain and use for salads or drizzled over pasta or soft stinky cheese.
• Mix with coarse sea salt, black pepper and sugar to make a great dry rub for meat.
• Stir into butter, then spread on toast or blend into mashed potatoes.
• Add to flour for dredging almost anything you're going to fry or sautee (fish, veal, etc).
makes a few tablespoons
— 1 large handful dried mushrooms such as black trumpet, porcini or shittakes
Place mushrooms in a fine strainer or tamis and shake vigorously over the sink, lightly rubbing the mushrooms. This is an attempt to remove any fine, gritty dirt that can adhere to them. Grind mushrooms to a fine powder in a spice/coffee grinder. You may need to do this in batches. Store in a glass jar or other airtight container.