AUTHOR: Julia TITLE: Foraging for Mushrooms (Recipe: Cognac Scented Mushrooms) DATE: 10/08/2009 01:32:00 AM ----- BODY:
My first job out of cooking school was at Restaurant Nora in Washington DC (it was there that I cooked for newly elected President Clinton). We offered a variety of mushrooms on the menu, but always distinguished between “exotic” and “wild”. While the shiitakes were considered exotic for their Asian origins, they were actually cultivated on oak logs, and not grown in the wild. By now, they aren’t even considered exotic.

The cool wet weather of autumn has arrived. With it comes beautiful foliage and earthy mushrooms. I love the variety of fall mushrooms – chanterelles, hen of the woods, porcini -- each with a different texture and flavor. One of the reasons these mushrooms are so special is that they cannot be cultivated like the ubiquitous shiitake and portobellos.

Foraging for mushrooms can be a dicey proposition. Not all mushrooms are edible, and many prized varieties, like the porcini, have a bitter or poisonous sibling. Local mycology groups offer hikes to forage for mushrooms with guides that help with identification. Unless I'm out with my friend Brett, I leave the foraging to the experts and purchase mushrooms at the market. As much as I love growing my own vegetables, fishing for seafood and hunting for meat, I'm a ninny when it comes to mushrooms.

My favorite meal to ring in fall is roast chicken with roast parsnips and carrots with creamed mushrooms on top. The colors are drab, but the mushrooms make the dish sing.

Cognac Scented Mushrooms
1 tbs. butter
1 1/2 lb. mushrooms, assorted, sliced or diced
2 tbs. chopped shallots
1 tbs. sliced garlic
2 tbs. cognac
1 cup cream
2 tsp. whole grain mustard
1/2 bunch thyme

Heat a large skillet over a medium-high heat and add butter. Sauté mushroom, garlic and shallots without stirring for 5 minutes, or until mushrooms start to caramelize. Add cognac, and reduce before adding the cream and 2 tsp. chopped thyme. Reduce cream by half. Stir in mustard. Season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice.


----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) DATE:10/08/2009 07:36:00 AM Ever since I moved out here to the country, I've wanted to hire a forager to come and walk the property with me. We have tons of mushrooms, but other than staying away from red ones, I don't know whether any are edible -- so I stay away from all but the morels. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types DATE:10/08/2009 08:25:00 AM I, too, leave the foraging to the experts - and then I am happy to indulge. I was just at a farmer's market in Oregon and there was one table with mountains of beautiful mushroom varieties on display. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:OpenID arugulove DATE:10/08/2009 09:26:00 AM I never would have thought to look for foraging hikes, but that sounds like it would be a lot of fun. This recipe looks great! Thanks! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Peter M DATE:10/08/2009 09:57:00 AM I would love to go on a hike and comeback with mushrooms and cook'em up like you did here.

Wild mushrooms rock! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Garlic Man DATE:10/08/2009 01:42:00 PM Foraging for Cognac - Part 2
(Recipe: Mushroom Scented Cognac)

Before foraging, pick up a bottle of your favorite cognac, then begin the foraging.

After finding the first edible/non-poisonous mushroom, rub it on the rim of your glass that has been filled sufficiently with the cognac. As you drink the cognac, you will notice a faint mushroom scent wafting from the rim. This is how to make Mushroom Scented Cognac.

For best effect, consume both your recipe and my recipe at the same sitting. LOL ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Psychgrad DATE:10/09/2009 09:09:00 AM I've heard of these foraging groups that go out, pick mushrooms and make a meal with them. Sounds like fun.

I was eager to try more mushroom varieties this summer, but only managed to catch the people selling mushrooms at the market once :(. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Heather DATE:10/09/2009 03:51:00 PM wow! those are some impressive mushrooms! i'm definitely not a mushroom fan. wish i was, but i just can't! but i love the idea of a cognac scenting. i'll bet that's tasty on so many things! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous Sylvie, Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener DATE:10/11/2009 01:39:00 PM I love mushroom, and one day will be looking for a mentor or a mycology class. Morels in the spring are the only mushroom we feel safe foraging for. They have no real look alike!

Love the combination of flavors in your mushroom dish. ----- --------