Fresh Mushrooms: Bluefoot, Morrell, Porcini, Hen of the Woods -- Preparation ideas, techniques?
I've never prepared any of these mushrooms fresh before, and i want to be able to taste them each individually -- to compare/contrast the flavors, but i want to cook them all for one meal (tonight). Should i cook each batch separately, so their juices don't commingle and influence each other?
I was thinking of keeping the preparation simple, just a combination of pan-sauteed/braised with shallots and time. should i consider a splash of sherry, or would that obscure the taste of the mushrooms?
if anyone has tips about cooking times or other preparation ideas or techniques for any of these mushrooms, i'd appreciate it.
i was thinking about rounding out the dinner with a simple whole wheat pasta (maybe with some bacon?), a couple of eggs (scrambled, fried, soft-boiled), and braised arugula.
Right now the only ones that I use are the morells. All I do is soak in lots of salt water to get out the bugs & dirt. Then rinse well. Dry off and dip into flour. Melt 1 stick of butter in a skillet and gry the morels till crisp on side 1 and flip over again till crisp. I then take out and in the skillet, I will take a piece of bread and lay just one side into butter sauce. Then take it out and put a thick layer of mushrooms on bread and there you have yourself a mushroon samich.
Now the next morning if any are left, reheat skillet that you cooked them in last nite and heat them till crispy again and then scramble your eggs with them. Yummy again.
You can also do the fry till crispy thing and put onto your steaks.
Them is some good eating right there.
To retain their individual characters and ensure each is cooked to perfection, your best bet is to sauté them separately in butter, duck fat or, in the case of the porcini, olive oil. Shallot and parsley or thyme will complement their flavour; sherry will obscure it. After they're sautéed, you can return them all to the pan and quickly reheat them.
That said, my favourite way to do a wild mushroom medley is in a 325º oven. Clean and trim the fungi and combine them in a baking dish with chopped shallot, a whole garlic clove, a sprig or two of thyme, a drizzle of olive oil and some water, chicken broth or white wine. Cover and roast until tender, 30-45 minutes. Remove from the oven and season with salt and pepper. While there's some melding of flavours, they retain their basic integrity. And you end up with some delicious mushroom liqueur.
Filets Mignons Country Club style (for 4)
2 Tablesp unsalted butter
1 Tablesp virgin olive oil
1 lb. mixed domestic and wild mushrooms, cleaned and cut into pieces, if
4 shallots, finely sliced (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup chopped herbs --like chives, parsley tarragon, etc. Thyme is a must.
1/2 teasp salt
4 slices fine-textured white bread, each about 4 in. diameter and 1/2 inch
thick, crusts removed (Pep Farm white works for me)
4 filets, 4 oz each
Heat butter and 1 T olive oil until very hot and hazelnut in color. Add the
mushrooms and saute over high heat for 10 seconds. Cover and continue to
cook for 3 minutes. Uncover and cook over high heat for 2-3 minutes until
dry. add the shallots, herbs, salt and pepper and cook for 1 minute longer.
Lightly toast the sliced bread and arrange on a plate. Spoon the mushroom
mixture on top of the toast. Top each with a filet sauteed in the mushroom pan, exactly as you like it.
By now you'll have done whatever you did with them. Hope they were good.
I only ever wipe mushrooms and would never put water anywhere near them . Then for the simplest preparation, just heat some olive oil and a few garlic slices. Take the garlic out (it'll have flavoured the oil by now); turn the heat up and fry the mushrooms (fast and hard). Drain & pile onto crostini with a little drizzle of more oil.
You would say Alice Waters doesn't know anything about morels? "Use as little water as possible to clean them ... Morels, however, may need to be soaked and rinsed if they have lots of sand embedded in their pitted caps." The Larousse Gastronomique? "[Cleaning morels] can be done either by rinsing the mushroom several times in water and then draining it or by cleaning the cap with a fine brush so as not to destroy its delicate scent." Richard Olney? "Morels ... should be split in two and well rinsed beneath a vigorous jet of water, then sponged dry before being put to cook." The Oxford Companion to Food? "Morels should be gathered in dry weather and carefully picked clean." Paul Bertolli? "Wild mushrooms [the context makes it clear this includes morels] should never be washed under water to remove the dirt or leaves clinging to them, or they will become soggy and diluted in flavour. Handling them gently, brush the caps and stems with a small vegetable brush, or towl. If there are any particularly soiled spots, implanted dirt, leaves, sand, or pine needles, cut or scrape them away with a knife." If the indexes to French-language cookbooks weren't so useless, I could easily quote a number of French chefs to the same effect. Chefs and cookbook writers may not always agree on how to clean fresh morels but none that I'm aware of in my sizable cookbook collection suggests soaking them in salt water and the majority recommend minimizing contact with any water.