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