Mushroom Season

Hurray! The mushroom season has started! Last Saturday we bought delicious cèpes and chanterelles. Such a treat. It does of course mean that summer is over, which makes us a bit sad, but it also means the joy of eating wonderful dishes such as Cèpes à la Bordelaise or Salad with Mushrooms and smoked Duck (see below). Last year we prepared a Pâté with bay boletes, which was both beautiful and delicious. Will we be able to buy them this year? Or perhaps the intriguing Japanese Matsutake? It’s been some time since we last saw them on the market, and we would really love to make Matsutake with Spinach and Ginger again. How about Caesar’s mushroom with Udon?

Books

If you’re looking for useful mushroom recipes, then we suggest Antonio Carluccio’s The Quiet Hunt or Mushroom by Johnny Acton and Nick Sadler. Or look at our list of mushroom recipes.

Wine Pairing

Combining wine and salad is never obvious. In the case of a salad with mushrooms and duck we need to consider umami (mushrooms, duck), a touch of sweetness (smoked or cured meat) and the acidity of the dressing. We choose Domaine de Rimauresq Côtes de Provence Cru Classé rosé. A classic wine from the French Provence with grapes such as grenache noirmourvèdreugni blanc and rolle. The wine comes with delicate fruity, fresh flavours and aromas. It is very well balanced, dry and mouth filling and it combines beautifully with all aspects of the salad.
In general you’re looking for a white or rosé wine that has complexity and length, without being overpowering.

What You Need

  • 150 grams of Mushrooms (Cèpes preferred but also great with Oyster Mushrooms or a mix of Champignon de Paris, Shiitake and others)
  • Mesclun
  • Dried or Smoked Breast of Duck
  • Olive Oil
  • Vinegar (Red Wine, Jerez or Raspberry)

What You Do

Clean and slice the mushrooms. Heat a heavy iron skillet and fry the mushrooms in olive oil. Make a dressing of oil and vinegar. Toss the mesclun and the dressing. Transfer the salad to a plate, add mushrooms and finish with 3 or 5 slices of duck.

The Quiet Hunt

Antonio Carluccio’s The Complete Mushroom book is more than a cookbook. The first part of the book discusses foraging and collecting mushrooms, with clear descriptions of each mushroom and poisonous look-alikes. It’s a pleasure to read, but we’re not brave enough to start our own quiet hunt.

Fortunately, mushrooms are becoming more popular and greengrocers and supermarkets have started selling chestnut mushrooms, button mushrooms and shiitake. Asian supermarkets in most cases sell (king) oyster mushrooms, shiitake, enoki and shimeji.
Don’t be tempted to buy dried mushrooms: expensive, no aroma, nasty taste and not even close to a fresh mushroom.

Recipes

The second part of the book includes some 150 mushroom recipes, ranging from classic Italian dishes to culinary treats. Carluccio’s recipes are well written and informative. You’ll get the feeling that he lets you in on some of his secrets. And given he started foraging mushrooms as a young child, there are a lot of secrets to share!

One of our favourites is a salad made with maitake, fresh scallops, crab and shrimps. It’s an amazing result, with lots of pleasant flavours, also thanks to the cilantro, dill and parsley. Part of the fun is that the scallops are not seared but prepared like ceviche. Maitake is also available as a cultivated mushroom.

Caponata

More favourites? Of course! How about Mushroom Caponata or Tagliolini with black truffle? The caponata is a combination of mushrooms, egg plant and various herbs, so if you can buy button mushrooms and for instance shiitake, you’re ready to go.

Our all-time favourite from this book is the combination of fresh oysters with white truffle (bianchetti). A starter we prepare once or twice a year, depending on the availability of the truffle. Always a pleasure…

The Mushroom Book – the Quiet Hunt was published in 2001. It’s available (in most cases second hand) via channels such as Amazon and e-Bay for prices between 25 and 50 euro.

One of the very best books on mushrooms, written by a true expert.

Earthly Delights

The Mushroom Book by Michael McLaughlin and Dorothy Reinhardt (Illustrator) is a lovely, small book with some 35 recipes and 60 very delightful full-colour wood-cut illustrations. Just look at the cover! It’s the kind of book that we bought because it looks good. A book you simply want to have.

Only later did we find out that it discusses the history and other interesting back ground information of various mushrooms, including information on choosing, storing and preparing them. The book offers an introduction to the joy of cooking with mushrooms such as button mushrooms, morels, oyster mushroom, truffle, trompette de la mort, chanterelle, shiitake, cèpes and huitlacoche, a Mexican mushroom that grows on corn.
Michael McLaughlin is also known as co-author of The Silver Palate Cookbook with recipes from Manhattan’s celebrated gourmet food shop.

Amongst our favourite recipes are Mushroom Tapenade and Raw Mushroom, Fennel and Provolone Salad.

The Mushroom Book was published in 1994. It’s available (in most cases second hand) via channels such as Amazon and e-Bay for something like 15 euro. Ii is an ideal and friendly introduction to the world of earthly delights. 

The Mushroom Book
The Mushroom Book

Fried Oyster Mushrooms

Yesterday’s Bread

Cotoletta alla Milanese and Wiener Schnitzel are based on a similar concept: breaded and pan fried thin slices of veal or pork, served with a slice of lemon. The most obvious variation is Pollo alla Milanese which is made with chicken. A very special variation is Cotoletta di vitella di latte alla Milanese, as described in 1891 by Pelligrino Artusi (1820-1911) in his book La Scienza in Cucina e l’Arte di Mangiar Bene (The Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well). The book is a must have for every serious food lover, so buy the book! It is very well written and contains over 700 recipes from Italy. Before breading the meat Mr. Artusi coats one side of the veal with a mixture of finely chopped fat ham, parsley, grated Parmesan cheese and truffle. Delicious no doubt!

The variation we prefer is made with Oyster Mushrooms, so Cotolette di Funghi Pleurotus alla Milanese. It is very tasty and the juicy and meaty structure of the oyster mushroom in combination with the crispy crust makes it into a much-loved starter. No need to deep fry: a hot pan with olive oil and butter is all you need.

The key to an excellent Alla Milanese are the breadcrumbs. Make your own breadcrumbs with yesterday’s bread and compare the result with the cardboard crumbs you can buy. Flavour! Texture!

Wine Pairing

A fresh, not too complex white wine will be great with the fried oyster mushrooms. Soave, Burgundy, Loire: all good.

What You Need

  • 150 grams of Oyster Mushrooms
  • One Egg
  • Three Slices of Yesterday’s Bread
  • Olive Oil
  • Butter
  • Black Pepper
  • Lemon Juice

What You Do

We begin by making the breadcrumbs. Toast the slices of bread and let cool. Cut in smaller bits and then using a cutter or blender make the crumbs. Whisk the egg. Feel free to add some water if you need more volume. Remove the stems from the mushrooms. Make sure your pan is hot, add the oil, the butter and start breading and frying. When nearly ready remove the pan from the heat, add some lemon juice and move the mushrooms in the pan. The idea is to add a touch of lemon to the taste and to keep the mushrooms crispy. Add black pepper and serve immediately on a warm plate. We don’t serve with additional lemon because adding lemon juice later on will make the wonderful crunchy crust of the soft oyster mushrooms soggy.

Salad of Oyster Mushrooms and Smoked Breast of Duck

The Loire

One of France’s most beautiful and interesting rivers. It flows from the Massif Central to the Atlantic Ocean and its valley is linked to towns like Nantes, Blois, Tours and Saumur and castles like Chambors and d’Azay-le-Rideau. Its banks are rich, just think of the many vineyards, farms and orchards. So much history, so much gastronomy. The river inspired many, including Hilaire Walden who wrote Loire Gastronomique in 1993. She followed the river and describes its gastronomy in this travelogue. The book features the typical food of the region and the recipes are authentic, easy to follow and delicious. Highly recommended!

Saumur is also a wine region and well-known for its sparkling wine. Another wine made in the region is Saumur Champigny, made from Cabernet Franc. Smell your Saumur Champigny and think of sharpening a pencil. Graphite, cedar wood. Exactly. That’s the specific aroma of Cabernet Franc. The Saumur Champigny wines are typically light or medium-bodied, have a crisp acidity, are easy to drink and they come with flavours and aromas of berries.

Food pairing

Saumur Champigny Les Hauts Buis, 2017, has a red colour with a touch of violet. Soft aromas that made us think of raspberries and cherries. Easy to drink, fresh acidity and soft tannins. Earthiness, lots of red fruit and cherries; with a nice finale with more red fruit. This is a well-balanced wine. Ideal to combine with charcuterie as apéro, a salad and perhaps with couscous. We decided to combine the wine with a salad. A salad that would bring juiciness, nuttiness and sweetness. Gently fried Oyster Mushrooms, smoked Breast of Duck and perhaps Quail Eggs. A few days later we combined the wine with roasted chicken. Again, very nice, light and inspiring.

What You Need

  • Oyster Mushrooms
  • Mesclun
  • Shallot
  • Smoked Breast of Duck
  • (Optional) Quail Eggs
  • Olive Oil
  • Vinegar
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Tear the oyster mushrooms into smaller bits, following the lamellae. Don’t use a knife to do so. Make sure the mesclun is ready to be eaten. Slice the breast of duck into smaller bits if so required. Gently fry the oyster mushrooms in olive oil, just to give them warmth and colour. Cook the quail eggs until just set. Make the vinaigrette with olive oil, white wine (or cider) vinegar, black pepper and the thinly chopped shallot.
Create the salad by tossing the mesclun and the vinaigrette. Serve with the mushrooms and the breast of duck on top of the salad. Serve with crusted bread and of course a generous glass of Saumur Champigny.

 

Omelet with Oyster Mushrooms and Nasturtium

Try This at Home

Oyster mushrooms were among the first mushrooms to be cultivated. They grow very well on straw so great to grow at home. See pictures!
The vast majority of oyster mushrooms are grey, but we have seen and tasted the yellow and sensational pink oyster mushroom. Since you can eat oyster mushrooms raw, the pink and yellow variety is great in a salad. Oyster mushrooms can be a bit watery, which impacts the taste. A pity because the taste is delicate and soft anyway. Not a mushroom to combine with more powerful mushrooms like shiitake. Oyster mushrooms cook quickly, so great to use in a stir-fry or a soup. You can try using them in a stew, but make sure your chunks are not too small.

Wine pairing

A crisp, floral white wine goes very well with this omelet. Best would be a Pinot Grigio or a combination of Chardonnay and Viognier.

What You Need

  • 250 grams Oyster mushroom
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1 Spring Onion
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • Black Pepper
  • Chives
  • Nasturtium

What You Do

Harvest your oyster mushrooms or buy really fresh and tasty ones. Tear the mushroom into smaller but not too small chunks. Slice the spring onion in small rings. Fry the oyster mushrooms in olive oil and butter for 3 minutes or so until slightly cooked. Add the white of the spring onion. Perhaps you want to add some butter to the pan. Now make sure the pan is nice and hot. Whisk the eggs well, add the green of the spring onion and add to the pan. After a few seconds reduce the heat to very low and wait 5 to 10 minutes until the egg is nearly set. Take your time but keep an eye on the surface and the consistency. Check with your fingers if the omelet is beginning to set. A good omelet must be baveuse so Timing is All. There is no alternative to baveuse!
Serve the omelet on warm dishes with black pepper, chives and nasturtium (not just for fun, also for the peppery taste of the nasturtium leaves).

Salad of Oyster Mushrooms, Pancetta and Chives

The Challenges of Oyster Mushrooms

Finally! After weeks of patience you’ve just harvested your home grown Oyster Mushrooms. Or for those among us with less patience: you’ve just bought some A+ Oyster Mushrooms.
Let’s discuss some misunderstandings about oyster mushrooms.
First of all, yes, they can be eaten raw (especially the pink and yellow variety), but as always with mushrooms, some people simply don’t agree with them. Cooking is a way of removing the toxic element.
Second aspect, oyster mushrooms do have a taste of their own. It’s delicate and it combines really well with eggs, chives and pancetta, but mind the balance.
And finally, they are (indeed) a bit soggy. So don’t try to fry them and don’t use them in a sauce where you want a certain consistency. Use this aspect of the oyster mushroom, don’t fight it.

This recipe is clearly inspired by the wonderful salade paysanne, which is a combination of ingredients such as mesclun, egg, bacon, potatoes, oil and vinegar. (and never pine nuts, balsamic vinegar, tomatoes and mayonnaise).

Wine Pairing

You can serve the salad as a lunch with a glass of Pinot Grigio or a nice rosé from the Provence region, but why not be a bit bold and serve it with a red wine? Our suggestion would be a Pinot Noir or a Beaujolais Cru (so not nouveau or village).

What You Need

  • Oyster Mushrooms
  • Mesclun
  • Pancetta
  • Quail Eggs
  • Olive Oil
  • Butter
  • Chives
  • Black Pepper

What You Do

Tear the oyster mushrooms into smaller bits, following the lamellae. Don’t use a knife. Make sure the mesclun is ready to eat. Cut the pancetta into smaller bits. Don’t use bacon because the saltiness of the bacon will overpower the mushrooms.
In parallel gently fry the oyster mushrooms in olive oil and butter, just to give them warmth and allow for the taste to develop. Remove from the pan and set aside, preferable on a warm plate. In a second skillet fry the pancetta in olive oil. Add olive oil and white wine vinegar to the remaining juices of the oyster mushroom and create a warm vinaigrette. This way you capture the juices and taste of the mushrooms. In a third pan cook the quail eggs until just set. When using fresh chicken eggs cook them until runny or even better, poach the eggs. We prefer using quail eggs given the size of the salad and the more present taste of the quail eggs.
Create the salad by tossing the mesclun, pancetta, chives, black pepper and half of the mushrooms with the vinaigrette. Serve with the other half of the mushrooms on top of the salad, sprinkle some chives on top. Serve with crusted bread.