August 2010 Archives

Chanterelles & Halibut

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Don't over power this delicate mushroom.
chanterelle-saute.jpgI've had no trouble finding all kinds of mushroom in good quantity this summer. But, when I find the apricot-colored Chanterelle, I forget I even like the other mushrooms. One scent of this one, and I've lost my taste for the hunt for any other.

chanterelle-halibut.jpgSweet and buttery both in smell and taste. Delicate prefaces any description of how they look and taste, so it's best to cook and serve them simply.  

One of my favorite ways to cook Chanterelles is in a risotto with just a little shallot, wine and a very little bit of Parmesan cheese. I love Parmesan, so it's rare I suggest such restraint.

But restraint is what is really necessary to get the most out of Chanterelles. Rule out meat, garlic, chilis. I imagined the perfect Chanterelle sauce for a very firm, very fine piece of Halibut.

The fish was pan fried in just a little oil, salted, peppered and put on a bed of fresh pasta.

The Chanterelles were cut to bite-sized pieces and sauteed for about 5 minutes in a tablespoon of butter.

Fresh wild mushrooms are moist, but will still absorb twice their weight in liquid, so it's best to go light on liquid,  too. Butter included.

About a 1/4 cup of white wine poured into the pan used to fry the fish conserved every bit of the flavor of the fish and good olive oil, and was the start of a sauce. I added an egg yolk to the wine to thicken it, whisked them together over low heat and added the mushrooms just moments before I arranged the sauce on top of each portion of fish.

We served it with a simple cold white Chardonnay and a few slices of fresh tomato from the garden.

The cooking of this meal took no time at all.

The collecting of the mushrooms had taken about three hours total and was, of course, written off as great exercise (whether or not mushrooms were to be found).

The cleaning of all these mushrooms, however, took hours. I enjoyed every minute of it. 

I now understand how someone might enjoy waxing their car. I held each mushroom, blew the obvious dirt away, cut off any part of the stem that wasn't going to come clean, and then used an artist's paint brush to flick dirt from the fluted gills that run down the stem and under the cap. Finally, a soft, damp tea towel took any remaining dirt or debris off the top. For me, the smell of Chanterelle is much better than Carnauba, but the pride was probably similar to that of someone with a cherry ride.

Champagne and Popcorn

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Celebrating something special: Roederer & Redenbacker.

Roederer.jpgThe perfect August celebration -- meeting friends at 5 p.m. on their fifth floor balcony at the Magnolia, a boutique, downtown Denver hotel -- started with champagne and popcorn.

August in Denver is very hot for people used to living in the mountains, so I crave cold bubbly wine. I wouldn't have guessed to pair it with popcorn until the wine rep at Argonaut suggested it.  The simple white kernels, popped and tossed with our great French sea salt came to the hotel room in a paper sack where the champagne and friends greeted us coldly and warmly, respectively.

Leo, the wine rep, had made a good call. He surprised us, too, by being such a fan of French champagne. He suggested the Roederer Brut Premier. The price had just come down a little, and so it now landed in my price range.

I love how champagne bubbles make you breathe and smell the wine. The Roederer's dry sweetness reminds me of a day in an open meadow by a stream at about 11,000 Colorado feet above sea level. When I think of this place in my mind there is nothing wrong with the setting, no sticks scratching my legs, no rain forcing me to cover up, and that's exactly what I like about nice champagne -- there's nothing wrong. And popcorn, the way my husband makes it, also comes with nothing not to like.

btw -- The bottle we were drinking really was champagne -- meaning it comes from the Champagne region of France, near Reims, which unbelievably rhymes with France.

A Minimalist's Pizza

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chanterelle-eggplant-pizza.jpg
I made the Chanterelle pizza. For our mushroom fest, every one likes the hearty ones, and we all revere the Chanterelle. And fear screwing it up. The taste of this mushroom is so delicate it's important not to overwhelm it. It is floral and sweet. Honey mixed with a sweet earth taste, more buttery than the butter it's sautéed in. We sparsely filled the crust that had been painted with good olive oil with a grid of roasted Japanese eggplant. We then filled in the blanks with chanterelles, and topped it with a very little finely grated Parmesan cheese.

It was the quickest to make, the simplest and served as a perfect first course.

Most of the dough we used for the fest came from Giampietro Pasta and Pizzeria, located on Lincoln just east of Main Street in Breckenridge. It makes a great crust stretched thin, and not a bad way to go if you're tired from 'shrooming. Count on one pizza for every three people, especially if there isn't much else on the menu. We added a salad fresh from Lucia's garden and we stuffed 14 people with 6 pizzas total.

This is the third in the series of pizzas made for our wild mushroom taste fest. Find other entries for the Albatrellis, sausage pizza and Pizza with the King.

bolete-precooked.pngMushroom Pizza Fest
Voila! Here comes the pizza starring Boletus Edulis - ready for the oven. This was just one of several pizzas the mushroom foragers produced after a long day's harvest.

Lucia started this pizza with a bolete-pizza.pngwhole-wheat crust, which she painted with basil pesto, piled with mushrooms, then topped with chunks of fresh mozzarella cheese, basil leaves and fresh tomato slices.

Using a couple cups of chopped and sautéed Boletus mushrooms, this was the second pizza out of the oven for our 2010 Mushroom fest, and we were all chomping at the bit to taste the mushroom called the King. King Bolete.

Technically Boletus edulis; a typically mushroom taste, maybe a little nutty (pine-nutty?) but meaty, it doesn't fall apart when cooked. Unlike many wild mushrooms, it stays firm, said Lucia praising it. It tastes like a forest, packed into a mushroom body.

The pizza was rich. Rightly rich.

Mushroom Harvest Fest

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Each pizza came to life with a different mushroom.

albatrellus-kari.pngThe Albatrellus, or Sheeps Foot, is a dense, meaty mushroom, tasting slightly peppery. Good ones smell a little sweet in the field, something soft like an apricot.

saute-mushrooms.pngUsing the cleaned and chopped young Albatrellus (on the right in the above picture) Kari Canfield (on the left, above; center, in the second photo) sautéed the mushrooms in olive oil with a chopped sweet Vadalia onion and several minced cloves of garlic, added chopped prosciutto, and pine nuts, gave it a stir and put the mixture on the crust with chunks of fresh mozzarella cheese. While the mushrooms cooked we all discussed what to make with the next ingredient fresh summer squash from my garden in Denver, and Kari's mom's squash from California. Those vegetables became their own pies.

Kari-Pizza.pngOnce all the ingredients were on the crust, we added some finely-grated Parmesan cheese to this pizza. With more of these ingredients left over we took another of the freshly stretched doughs we'd gotten from our favorite pizzeria in Breckenridge -- Giampietros -- laid it on the barbecue, flipped it pretty quick, and laid on the mushroom topping and the cheeses.

After about  20 minutes, the pizza was golden brown all over, and was voted by Rae, whose kitchen we had all invaded, as the best pizza of the night. "It just had so much 'stuff' on it," she said.

Mushroom Season is On

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... The thrill of the hunt
August 1, 2010
mushroom-harvest.png All afternoon was set aside for a hike on a perfect in mid-July day. Not more than 15 minutes into the hike, a iron-brown stone turned out to be a mushroom of the very best kind -- a King Bolete -- and vistas were forgotten. We all zoom in ... to the hunt. Our eyes scoured through the pine duff for the Edible.Boletus2.png 
 
"It's like heroin, now you're hooked," said one of the foragers to the hunter who found the Bolete, which was about 8 inches across. No other boletus - one of the best of wild mushrooms in Colorado - was found on this trip. It was still early in the season.
   
Yesterday's hunt was the beginning of the boom. We found several boletus, many of what I call Sheep's Foot (Albatrellis). This mushroom looks like a marshmallow that was toasted over a campfire and tossed to the ground. We found Chanterelles - the golden trumpet shaped mushroom that smells like fresh fruit, captured sunlight and sweet butter. And tastes just as good.

prince-mushroom-more.pngThe Botele is the mushroom that Phyllis and I are examining above, but we also found a few more unusual Colorado mushrooms. Clockwise, from top left, see the Hawks' Wing, the Prince, a bit of the cap of a bolete, corral (looks like sea coral) and the Lactarius Deliciosus.

Many more species of mushrooms had popped out today, displaying all kinds of colors and flare, but those were not picked, nor kept.

Ninety percent of the mushrooms I collect and eat are shown in these photos. The No. 1 rule of mushroom hunters: Pick only what you know you'd like to eat. When we go out with first-timer mushroom hunters, they will constantly asking 'what's this?', 'what's this one?'  Often I don't know the name, and don't care  because I know only a few wild mushrooms really taste good. And many cause nausea and worse things. The identity of choice mushrooms are passed around like the best small food blogs -- from friend to friend.   
   
More than a dozen of us had gathered at Rae's to assess the harvest, yesterday, and we decided that to fully sample what we'd found, we'd need a pizza fest. The next entries describe how to make the best -- and most pass-aroundable use -- of Boletes, the Sheep's Foot (Albatrellis) and the Chanterelle.