It is cool and damp. While for most of us it is a sign that it is time to be preparing for the hibernation season there are some things that find this a time to flourish. We can almost be forgiven for not realizing that mushrooms might actually have a season when football field sized containment facilities have them sprouting twelve months a year. If you are curious to go beyond the ubiquitous button, portbello, cremini or shiitake you have to wait for early spring or autumn to get your fill of fungi. I will warn you that these highly coveted patches of loam producing fungus can quickly drain your pocket.
When I lived in northern California I had a source for a matsutake mushroom a rich and meaty variety that was all so welcomed when they where available. But I never got to know the location as to where these particularly desired mushrooms happen expected for the generally location of southern Oregon. The same is to be said for the hen of the woods, pompoms and blue foots I get here in the northeast. Mushroom foragers prize their own patches where they can find certain mushrooms that they wily try to distract you from any hint of location. I always ask where they were found more out of idle curiosity on my behalf, as I would never think of going out into the dank forest eyes fixed downward spotting. Truthfully, I would be too concerned that I would harvest a toxic specimen, and it probably would not be a magic variety. So, I believe it is best to leave it to the trained eye of an expert to recognize which ones I should be sautéing.
Given their preciousness I store mushrooms in a paper bag, never plastic, as it tends to allow moister to accumulate causing the mushrooms to breakdown. If I wash them there are always sitting in a colander in order to allow the water run right through to prevent adding any excessive water to the mushrooms. Otherwise, I use a clean brush and dust them clean. Simplicity is a just crisped mushroom that has been sliced, and sautéed in olive oil with a suspicion of garlic, salt, pepper and a dash of lemon to finish.
Wild Mushroom Soup - yields 8 - 10 servings
2 tablespoon butter
1 large leek - white portion only, washed and diced
4 shallots - diced
2 clove garlic - diced
1-/2 pounds mushrooms - such as cremini, chantrelles, or morel, roughly chopped
1 oz dried porcini mushrooms - roughly crushed
2 tablespoons thyme - leaves only, roughly chopped
2-1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2-cups heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
In a four quart pot melt the butter over a medium flame and add the leek and shallots. Cook for a few minutes stirring constantly until they lose their raw look and become translucent. Add in the garlic, mushrooms, dried porcini and thyme cooking for a few minutes longer. Pour over the stock and bring the soup to a boil. Lower the flame to a simmer and add the vermouth. Cook the mixture for 20 minutes and then add in the cream and season with salt and pepper. Simmer the soup for an additional 30 minutes.
After the soup has finished cooking puree of the soup in a food processor fitted with a steel blade or in a blender. Return the pureed soup back to the pot. Correct seasoning.