Sunday, July 11, 2010


It is a sad and disappointing truth that when restaurant menus list a dish with "wild mushrooms" they almost always mean "Portobello mushrooms." If you get really lucky, you might even get shiitakes; but really, even those are only about as wild as a PG rated movie, circa 1992. I guess I can't blame them. Real wild mushrooms are expensive and the supply chain can be unreliable and dependent on factors like rainfall and proximity of clean forests. Plus, there is always that nagging fear that maybe, just maybe, one of the shrooms could be a little more...wild...than you want, and dead customers are not happy customers.

But now I live in Bloomington, and I now have the B-town farmer's market. Oh, and it's Chanterelle season. If you've never tried these yellow-orange delights, find some and do it now. They are, to me, the epitome of delicious mushrooms.

I tired them first when I was living in Hohenstein-Ernstthal in Sachsen, Germany, where the mushroom gathering culture is so ingrained that there are licensed Pilz Berater (mushroom advisors) who will look at your haul and tell you what to eat and what to discard. Some friends sauteed them in butter with some salt and pepper and brought me drooling back for more. They have a mild nutty flavor with only the minimum earthy flavor that you'd expect from a fungus of the forest.

And one of the wonderful things about living in Bloomington is that if you know where to look, you and three friends can gather two pounds of them in ten minutes. (No, that wasn't me, and yes, I envy them as much as you do.) This time of year the farmers market is chock-a-block with fresh wild chanterelles. We bought some last weekend (1 pint for $6) along with some fresh garlic from some farmer friends of mine and a half dozen ears of sweet corn. Lunch extravaganza.

I buttered and toasted a few slices of challah in the oven while I brought the water to a boil. What about the chanterelles? One beautiful French word: Duxelle (I thin it translates as "mushroom alchemy", but I'm not sure). We finely chopped half the mushrooms, about half an onion and one clove of garlic and sauteed it in plenty of butter. Dash of salt, grind of pepper. The mushrooms act like a sponge and soak up the butter, then the onions and garlic release their juices which are also soaked up. Once it starts to brown a little and the liquid is gone, kill the heat. We boiled the corn for a minute and served.

We spread the duxelle on the crisp toast and rolled the corn in butter and felt like no King of France, no robber baron of the last century, no gun-running drug-lord gastronome from the highest social circles of Prague ever ate so delicious a meal. Try putting a little heap of duxelle on your next bite of corn on the cob and you will have found a great thing.

So, one year into Bloomigton, and though the restaurant scene has failed to really amaze us (with the exception of one good Thai place and a great BBQ joint), we're finding that the local wild goods might be worth the search.

1 comment:

carolee said...

Wow Martin! I had no idea you were such a foodie! Are you a chef or something? I am loving reading through your blog, but now you've made me hungry!