Saturday, October 22, 2011

Chicken Mushroom Recipe - Coconut Mushroom Soup

Here is a great recipe with a bit of a tropical Thai twist. It is not hot, but savory, salty and slightly sweet and meaty all at once. Mushrooms with coconut milk might not sound very good, but the soup is wonderful. We ran across a very immature chicken mushroom (Laetiporus sulphureus) this week, and brought home about 15 pounds of it to cook with. Much will be frozen, but some will be made into something tasty right now. The mushroom was growing on a dying deciduous tree, rather high up. Robert cut off a large portion  and carted it home in a grocery shopping bag. It was so fresh, it soaked through the bag onto the floor of the car, and gave off a lot of moisture when cut and sautéed. Lambs's quarters (Chenopodium berlandieri) is an abundant weed probably growing in your yard or an open field area, but you could substitute spinach.

Coconut Sulfur Shelf Mushroom Soup                               makes about 6 servings

1 tsp. oil
1/4 c. diced shallots
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small chili pepper, chopped (seeds removed if you want it mild)
1" slice of ginger, peeled and grated
1 1/2 c. cubed sulfur shelf mushroom
1 c. cubed russet potatoes
2 c. vegetable broth
1 tsp. salt
1 c. coconut milk
1/4 c. julienned lamb's quarters or baby spinach
1 T chopped cilantro
1/2 c. water (if needed)
lime wedges
chopped cilantro and lamb's quarters

1. Heat the oil over medium heat and add the shallots, cooking until translucent. Add the garlic,  chili pepper, and ginger and cook another minute.
2. Add the cubed chicken mushroom, and cook until the liquids that come from the mushroom have evaporated, about 5-8 minutes, and the chicken mushroom starts to brown, stirring often.
3. Add the cubed potato, vegetable broth, and salt and cook for 6-8 minutes, until the potato is tender.
4. Add the coconut milk, lamb's quarters and cilantro. If the broth is too thick, add up to 1/2 c. water. Remove the soup from the heat.
5. Serve the soup with a squeeze of lime juice and lime wedges, along with some additional chopped cilantro and washed lamb's quarters.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Chicken Mushroom Recipe - "Chicken" Stuffed Bread

At a recent weekend mushroom foray with CVMS, Robert was lucky to find a small, fresh sulfur shelf, or chicken mushroom (Laetiporus sulphureus). This is a common autumn polypore found growing on dead trees and stumps. When fresh, the colors are bright orange with a bright yellow underside on each shelf. This specimen was fresh and quite wet. We brought it home and decided to make a stuffed braided bread. Chicken mushroom is a firm, meaty mushroom, and I made a substantial filling along with sautéed onions and brie. We shared some the next day at another foray. I usually make a standard pizza dough with a bit of whole wheat flour, but you could use pizza dough from the grocery store. To make it easier to dice the brie, I freeze a chunk of it first and then toss the diced brie in a pinch of flour once cut. If you don't want to make the filled braid, you could also make a stuffed pocket or calzone with the filling.

Chicken Mushroom Stuffed Bread                       makes 1 large bread, or 4 calzones

7 oz. warm water
1 1/2 tsp instant dried yeast
1 c. whole wheat flour
2 c. all purpose flour
2 T olive oil
2 tsp salt

2 tsp. oil
1 small onion, sliced
4 c. chopped chicken mushroom
1/2 c vegetable broth or water
4 oz. brie, cubed
4 T chopped chives
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

egg wash

1. To make the dough, pour the warm water (100°F) in a mixer bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let it proof for 2 minutes. It will look foamy.
2. Add 2 c. of flour, olive oil, and salt and turn the mixer on. Slowly add the last 1 c. of flour and mix for 5 minutes. You may need more flour to get the ball of dough to form.
3. On a floured counter, knead the dough for 2 minutes by hand. Return the dough to the oiled bowl, cover, and let it rise for 1 hour.
4. To make the filling, heat the oil in a sautée pan over medium heat and add the onions. Cook until the onions are softened and browned. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook 2 minutes. Add the broth or water to the pan and allow it to cook down.
5. Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool. Right before stuffing the dough, add the chopped chives, brie, and salt and pepper, stirring it all together.
6. Heat the oven to 400°F. Cover a sheetpan with parchment, a silicone mat, or spray with non-stick spray.
7. Punch down the dough, and roll it into a large rectangle about 8" x 14" for the stuffed bread, or into 4-8" rounds for calzones. Transfer the dough to the prepared sheetpan. Fill the dough and pinch it closed over the filling. Slit a few air vents in the top of the dough. Let the stuffed dough rest for 20 minutes, and brush it with egg wash.
8. Bake the stuffed bread for 25-35 minutes, the calzones for 20-30 minutes, until browned and the bread is fully baked. Cool before slicing.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Mushrooms Identified - Hen of the Woods

Immature Hen of the Woods
Same mushrooms, about 6 days later
Hen of the Woods (Grifola frondosa) is a mushroom we are comfortable eating, and have a small bit of experience with. We got our first by bartering with Russ Cohen at a foraging walk, and then found a few old specimens later in that year. The taste and texture of this mushroom really impressed us, so we made it a point to search for them this year. Joining the CVMS and several online forums really helped with our research and gave us many ideas where to search for these culinary delights. Timing is important, along with habitat.

Hen of the Woods Stroganoff
Hens are also known as Sheep's Head, due to their fluffy appearance. They grows at the base of oaks and other deciduous trees from September to November, often reappearing each season for several years. They are parasitic to the tree, and will very slowly kill a tree by causing rot in the heartwood and sapwood. Hens generally are very common in the Eastern US, are present in the Midwest, and are not present in the West except for the Pacific Northwest. After we made an active search for them this year, we have found perhaps 35+ pounds of delicious mushrooms at several sites, always at the base of an oak. We have dried, frozen and cooked several recipes using the thinner fronds and the solid core. We search for hen of the woods by finding an established mixed forest, and Robert will use binoculars to search off trail at the base of large or dead oaks. Many times we stumble upon a tree with 3-7 clusters at its base by accident or directly on a trail. We determine its desirability based on appearance, age, and buggy-ness of the hen. Robert uses a knife to cut the main stem and trim any gross bits from the bottom, and we carry the intact hens out in a canvas grocery bag.

Spore Print

Hen of the Woods underside
Hen of the Woods is a polypore, meaning it has pores on its underside instead of gills. It appears as a large, clustered mass of greyish-brown, dry, spoon-shaped fronds. Each frond will vary in size depending on age, but can be a nub or up to 3" (7 cm) wide. The pores on the underside should be white, though they will yellow with age. The stems or stalks are tough and off center, or usually attached to the sides of the fronds. The spore print is white. Clusters of hens may weigh up to 100 pounds, but most are around 5 pounds each. The core stem will be solid, without fibers, and works well in recipes if ground like meat or marinated. There are no dangerous look-alikes.

Hen of the Woods Tapenade
Hen of the Woods is considered a choice edible, due to its excellent firm, meaty texture and mild mushroomy taste. We have made a tapenade, calzones, consommé, pasta sauces, steak toppings, and just eat this mushroom sautéed with butter on toast. The Japanese call this mushroom maitake, and use it to enhance the immune system in cases of cancer, to regulate blood pressure, glucose and insulin. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Hen-of-the-Woods Recipe - Hen Tapenade Spread

Hen Tapenade on Crostini

Hen-of-the-Woods (Grifola frondosa) is an autumn mushroom we love. We received our first Hen from Russ Cohen in a trade for some jellies made from foraged wild foods, after we took a walk with him last year. Since then, we have been dreaming about the hen season. Joining the Connecticut Valley Mycological Society has taught us a lot about how to look for this beautiful polypore, such as preferred habitat, correct timing, and how to determine a desirable specimen vs. a too old or too young specimen. When cleaning the mushroom and separating the parts for drying, freezing, and eating fresh, we usually end up with a lot of very solid stems from the cores of the mushrooms. These solid cores form the base of a spread that is highly flavorful and almost meaty. We like to make a grilled cheese sandwich with a heavy layer of tapenade, or eat it just spread on crackers.

Hen-of-the-Woods Tapenade                       makes about 3 cups of tapenade

1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
1 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. olive oil
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 pound hen-of-the-woods mushroom cores, cleaned and coarsely chopped
1 c. sliced shallots
4 large garlic cloves, chopped

4 T bread crumbs, as needed

1. In a large bowl combine the balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, olive oil, and black pepper. Add the chopped mushroom cores and marinate at least 2 hours.
2. Heat the oven to 375°F. Remove the mushroom from the marinade and add the shallots and garlic. Spread the marinated mushroom onto an oiled sheetpan and roast for 30 minutes, until tender and browned. Cool.
3. Now remove the shallots and garlic from the marinade and place on another sheetpan. Roast for 20 minutes until tender.
4. In a food processor, pulse the shallots and garlic until chopped finely. Add the roasted mushroom and pulse until a chunky paste forms. Up to 4 T of bread crumbs may need to be added to absorb extra moisture to make the tapenade spreadable.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mushrooms Identified - Black Trumpets

Black Trumpet Dauphinoise
Mycology discussion groups in the Northeastern US were buzzing with talk of a monumental year for black trumpet mushrooms (Craterellus fallax), and we saw several specimens at the CVMS forays brought in by other people. Robert and I were very excited to come across some while hiking, he took many pictures and we wondered what we should do with our finds. Then, we were out looking for hen-of-the-woods in a new location when we came across more than 6 pounds of this wonderful fungus. Recipe searches and cooking commenced, and we dried enough to fill 2 gallon jars. The simplest way to eat them was on a pizza with goat cheese and some caramelized onions, and we made a Dauphinoise, soups, and are thinking of making a fondue with brie and black trumpets.

Can you see the trumpets?
Searching for black trumpets takes a slow and patient style, unless you know of some places that they appeared in previous years. They grow in mixed deciduous forests, often associated with oaks and beech trees, and we found many clustered with mountain laurels. The season runs from July through November, but the dry summer conditions held them off until the rains came with tropical storm Irene in late August. The trumpets are rather difficult to spot on the forest floor among the leaf litter and branches since they are so darkly colored. They appear more like dark holes, until your eyes adjust, when you will usually find a large area of clusters of the fungus.

Black trumpets are vase shaped, about 1"-5" (3-14cm) high. The top, outer edges of the "vase" are usually curled over and can be wavy, smooth, or ragged and split, ranging from 1/2"-4" (1-10cm) wide. The inside surface is dry and minutely scaly, dark brown to black. The underside, or outside of the "vase"  is smooth and lighter colored due to the spores being present.We have also seen Craterellus cinereus, which has raised veins on the underside and is also edible, but not as desirable. The stem is hollow and tapering downward to the base. The flesh of the black trumpet is thin and brittle, and tastes very earthy and I think it can taste a bit iron-y. Paired with cream it is divine.

The spore print of the black trumpets we found was a light peach or buff. On the west coast, they find Craterellus cornucopiodes, which has a white spore print, but very similar appearance to Craterellus fallax.
Spore prints

Monday, October 3, 2011

Black Trumpet Mushroom Recipe - Black Trumpet Dauphinoise

We came across a surprising bounty of black trumpets (Craterellus fallax) in September. Surprising because we were searching for hen-of-the-woods, and because we are still novice mushroom hunters and this is our true first season of searching. According to the message boards on Yahoo, this has been a great year for trumpets in New England. Our next task was to find a way to cook with them beyond a cream-based puréed soup. I put some on top of a pizza with goat cheese with fantastic results, Robert ate the whole thing himself. This recipe is for a Dauphinoise, or scalloped potato casserole rich with black trumpets and cream layered with a mild Monterey Jack cheese.

Black Trumpet Dauphinoise            makes one 9" x 9" dish

6 oz. black trumpets, chopped
2 c. light cream
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
6 russet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/8" slices
2 c. mild cheese like Monterey Jack

1. Heat the oven to 300° F.
2. Clean the black trumpets by removing the bottoms and looking inside for bugs or leaves. Chop them coarsely.
3. In a saucepan, add the black trumpets, light cream, salt and pepper. Bring up to a light boil, and remove from the heat.
4. Grease a 9" x 9" baking dish. Place 2 layers of the sliced potatoes on the bottom, sprinkle a 1/2 c. cheese on top, and spoon on some of the cream, enough to cover the potato layer.
5. Repeat this layering 4 times, ending with the cream covering the last top layer of cheese. Bake for 1 hour, then start checking for doneness by stabbing the center with a knife. You are looking for tender potatoes and a reduced cream sauce. Bake up to 30 minutes longer until done.

Can you spot the trumpets in this picture?