Wednesday, September 30, 2009

memories of mushrooms

when i was a kid, every may, we used to go to our secret i'd-tell-you-but-i'd-have-to-kill-you spot to hunt the wily morel mushroom. i still remember one bonanza year where we found what i would today refer to as chernobyl morels (tho' chernobyl hadn't yet happened at that point). they were enormous, like 5-6 times the normal size of morels. somewhere in my parents' basement there is undoubtedly a photograph of them. i remember it being taken and that they were laid out on a big piece of plywood for the purpose. i also remember that the local game warden came by to see them (it was a small town and news traveled fast) and that he tried to get it out of my dad where we had found them, but dad wasn't telling. there weren't that many suitable places where morels could grow in that area, so it's a wonder no one ever seemed to find our spot. but they didn't and we went back year after year, tho' we never equaled the haul of that one year in the mid-70s.

i clearly remember pans of tender morels fried up in real butter, served together with a special steak acquired for the occasion. because such fine mushrooms deserved a fine steak. and i remember fondly those exquisite, earthy flavors, eaten only in the few weeks morels, which are quite temperamental, were available. we were eating locally and appreciating things in their proper season before all that was fashionable. the steaks definitely came from locally-raised cattle as well, it was that kind of place.

where i live now, in denmark, the mushroom season comes in the autumn. there are several varieties of rørhatte or boletus (of which the porcini or karl johan is one) and chanterelles - the normal kind (pictured above) and trumpet chanterelles (below).

mushrooms are such a hard-won and precious commodity, crouching as they do, silently in the forest, blending in and hiding, that i always feel like cooking them in the simplest way in order to let them display as much of their mushroomy glory as possible. from childhood, i do have the notion in my head that they are best accompanied by a gorgeous steak. i have been known to stir them into a creamy risotto as well, tho' the temptation to serve that risotto with a steak is strong.

mostly, i do them as follows:

melt 25-50 grams of salted organic butter (depending on how many mushrooms your hunt yielded)
a glug of good quality extra virgin olive oil (i love the combination of butter and fragrant olive oil)
2 cloves of minced garlic
handful of fresh thyme
mound of cleaned, sliced (depending on the size) mushrooms

when we find karl johans, i tend to add a half pint of cream to the above and cook it down to make a thick, creamy mushroom sauce.

you can toss the beautiful, sautéed mess of mushrooms over fresh pasta, into your risotto or serve them as they are in their garlicky goodness, over a good steak. you'll never go wrong doing that.


marja-leena said...

Absolutely gorgoeous photography, Julochka - yours?

MissBuckle said...

We used to go chantarelle hunting close to an army shooting range. I remember being worried about getting shot while searching under the leaves to find that yellow gold. I like them as a meaty sidedsich to a pice of hallibut.

Elizabeth said...

Can I come over to dinner? I get so hungry when I see so much yummy.

Bee said...

From A Cuban in London (who is having computer issues):

You've gone Alec Baldwin on me with that post about mushrooms. You know Alec's monologue in 'Glengarry Glen Ros' when he mentions AIDA. Well, you got my Attention, because I am very Interested in mushrooms, love them, really, and my Decision tonight will be to pass by my local market to purchase some so that I can bring them into Action :-).

Bee said...

I never told you, but when I got the first peek at this post I IMMEDIATELY had to go out and buy some mushrooms and make risotto. If you are a mushroom lover (and oh boy, am I) these pictures set off a Pavlovian drooling response. I think that my LAST DINNER would have to be a great steak smothered in mushrooms. And you know what? I saute them in butter, olive oil, garlic (sometimes thyme), too. The butter/olive oil combo is good for lots of things, but really, really good for mushrooms.

I don't know why, but I've never hunted mushrooms myself. Last night when I was writing about making crabapple jelly it got me thinking about how exciting it is to acquire new skills. I love this seasonal aspect. (Speaking of, my walking partner and I found some great blackberries. Apparently the season isn't finished after all.)

Polly said...

Like everyone else who read this post, it made me hungry for mushrooms. I love mushrooms - who doesn't (seriously, I've never met anyone who would not like mushrooms) and they are best in uncomplicated dishes, like a risotto.

I've never hunted mushrooms myself, for the threat of food poisoning, I guess.

I would never think of combining mushrooms with steak. Looks like I'll learn a lot here... thanks so much for starting this blog!

Anne said...

Oh, yum. Now I have another stop to add to my farmer's market shopping list: the Far West Fungi stall. Mushroom risotto sounds heavenly, and just perfect for our newly arrived fall weather. Maybe with a steak!

I would love to go hunting for mushrooms someday, but I feel I'd need to go with someone who knows what she's doing. I don't know mushrooms well enough (other than the obvious ones, like morels) to trust that I wouldn't poison myself.

My mom actually grew mushrooms one year. It was fun, but once they really got established she couldn't use them fast enough and wound up with an armload of huge ones. So ended that experiment.

Bee, I can't wait to read about crabapple jelly!

julochka said...

marja-leena - yup, it's my photography. i've got a Nikon D300 and a 60mm macro lens.

miss buckle - i think these succulent babies would be worth the risk of getting shot.

elizabeth - just say when!

cuban in london (via bee) - we aim to inspire.

bee - i love the seasonal thing too. must go mushroom hunting again myself soon!

polly - the markets here are full of chantarelles (mostly from poland, i might add) at the moment, so you can definitely find mushrooms in your green markets. and mushrooms are heavenly with steak.

anne - it does help to go with someone who knows what they're doing the first few times. now i want a special mushroom knife and i've bought a book so i can venture out on my own.

Jelica said...

we bought some chanterelles last weekend and ruslan made them into a delicious omelette--yummie! btw, i also like to mix butter and extra virgin olive oil :)

christina said...

oh bless your heart, this is beautiful!

Elizabeth said...

Yes, yes, very hungry indeed for mushrooms about now!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Wonderful, wonderful blog!!
You are on my blog roll now!!

Molly said...

Your post doesn't leave mush room for anything else to be considered for dinner (groan). How many of us are there round the world who'll now eat mushroom risotto for dinner sometime this week?

Tessa said...

Uuuumhummmm, yumticious. And your photographs are fantastic, too. Mushrooms, kingdom for a mushroom. Must go and buy some right now this minute. Oh, and some well hung steak from Mr. Robinson while I'm at it. Thank you so much for the inspiration, Julochka.

TBM said...

Oh my word. If I made this, it would be all for me because my family does not share my love of mushrooms.

I don't think that is a bad thing ;-)

Congratulations on the new blog! I am looking forward to more yummy goodness.

XO from Holland

kristina said...

mmmmm, I think I need dinner!


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