Thursday, October 13, 2011

Mushroom Bliss

Another successful mushroom hunt!  My parents were in town a couple weeks ago and we took part in two of my favorite fall pastimes: football and chanterelle picking! The Huskies dominated Cal 31-23 on Saturday, then on Sunday we headed to the fungus fields.  We hit the "secret spot" early in the morning so they could make it back home at a decent hour.  After searching fruitlessly in one spot for 20 minutes, I decided someone else must have been there first and we moved on.  Then we hit pay dirt.  After finding their first "spore hole," both parents caught the bug and tromped around excitedly until our bags were full.

I made it home with about 8 lbs of chanterelles! I think Mom and Dad had about 6 lbs on top of that. 

I knew we wouldn't be able to use that many before they got all mushy, so about 5 of my 8 lbs were frozen.  I wanted to try drying them, but my coworker had mentioned that he had heard they don't reconstitute very well.  Dad tried it though, so we'll have to wait for a report from him. 

To freeze chanterelles, clean them by running under a steady stream of water until all loose dirt is off.  Set on paper towels to dry for 5 minutes.  Roughly chop while heating a saute pan over medium heat.  Cook mushrooms over medium heat until they release a lot of water, and it evaporates.  Add a small amount of butter and salt and cook for a few more minutes.  Freeze in tupperware in individual portions so they are easy to grab at a moments notice.

I have been slowly adding the rest of my horde to meals.  The best one yet was a full on cooking even we had two weeks ago.

Oven Roasted Chicken (from this post), bacon mashed potatoes, Parmesan chard, and pear and chanterelle stuffing. It. Was. GLORIOUS.

We really have that whole roast a chicken in less than an hour thing down pat.  We went from this:

(Note the baguette and goat cheese brie appetizer.  A must when you don't eat until 8:30pm.)
To this:

With barely even a thought.  Yeah, we're good.

But the star of this meal was really the stuffing. We poached the recipe from the Times, but it made such a big batch, and used so much butter, that we had to halve it.  Ten tablespoons butter?  Yikes.

Doesn't mean we didn't use any butter though...

I'm pretty sure that's the second butter addition to those onions...

We used a basic fresh bread loaf, which was fresh and way too soft, so it got ripped up and toasted in the oven for about 20 minutes on 250F.

And can I just say how hard it is to gauge how much half a pound of chopped mushrooms is? I'm pretty good at estimating a lot of kitchen goods, but mushrooms are apparently not one of those things. 

All I can say is that I hope I get the chance to go on a mushroom hunt again in November, because I don't want to pay $20/lb for chanterelles and this might just have to be the new Thanksgiving stuffing.

Chanterelle and Pear Bread Stuffing
Modified slightly from The New York Times

1 loaf french bread, cut or ripped into piece
1/2 lb chanterelle mushrooms
1/4 lb pancetta, diced
5 tablespoons butter
1/2 onion, chopped
1 minced shallot
Salt and pepper
2 pears, diced
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 cup chicken broth

1. Allow chopped bread to sit out overnight, covered with paper towels, or lightly toast in oven.

2.  Clean mushrooms and chop.  Set aside.  Place pancetta in large skillet over medium heat.  Cook slowly until fat is rendered, about 7 minutes.  Remove to a large plate.

3.  Ad 1 tablespoon butter to fat in pan and turn heat to medium high.  Add onion and shallots, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until just soft.  Remove to plate holding pancetta.

4.  Add 1 1/2 tablespoon butter to pan.  Add mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and quickly sate until starting to brown.  Remove and add to plate.

5.  Add remaining butter to pan.  Add pears and sugar and season with salt and pepper.  Sate pears over medium high heat until they begin to brown slightly.

6.  In a large bowl, add sauteed ingredients to bread.  Toss lightly to combine.  Add herbs and toss again.  Slowly pour broth over mixture and toss.  Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.

7.  Bake in 375 oven for 20-30 minutes, until a golden crust forms on bottom of pan. 

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