It’s quiet on our country roads here, but from time to time we see cars pulled over by the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere. This means we need to be alert: the hunter/gatherers are out and about.
The hunters, we avoid (they’ve been known to drink and hunt, which doesn’t improve their aim). But when we see The Gatherers, we follow suit. It’s truly a thing of beauty, they way everyone is so connected to the land here, and kids grow up knowing exactly where their food comes from. In spring The Gatherers will be scouring the forests for the thin and dainty wild asparagus. In summer they'll be foraging for blackberries for a confiture. And in the fall, they are in pursuit of the beloved French fungi. Almost everyone participates.
To gather wild champignons and survive the experience, one must have a little knowledge. There are many varieties in the woods, so you must know your pleasures and poisons. Anywhere in France, however, you may take your harvest to the nearest pharmacy, where they will screen it for the villains that will sicken, or even kill you (there are in fact a few deaths each year).
If you really want to play it safe, avoid the woods and gather the most common variety here in Burgundy, les Rosé des prés. These grow in most every cow field in damp weather, where they are well fertilized. They’re easy to identify by their white hats and pink gills, and you can quickly fill up a basket with enough to make a big batch of mushroom soup and have plenty left for friends or freezer. Photo: Rosé des prés mushrooms from the fields at the château.
It's France--of course there are rules! The local préfecture decides where and when you can gather mushrooms, though I don’t think anyone pays much attention; every cow field here is fair game. Other regulations: they must be a certain size, you must cut them with a knife at the base to minimize damage, and gather them in a wicker basket so the spores can fall and propagate.
Or take the really easy way out: the French markets are full of baskets of beautiful mushrooms of numerous varieties. They are of course endlessly versatile in the kitchen.
The other day Nicole cooked mushrooms for us, with that most simple of preparations: sautéed with loads of butter, garlic and parsley. It’s a dish I love, with the fall mushrooms in a starring role (suggestions below), though it makes a great side dish as well.
For more info, here's a fun book: Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares: The Love, Lore, and Mystique of Mushrooms.
RECIPE: Mushroom Mélange sautéed with garlic and parsley
Gather a mixture of fresh mushrooms from your local market or gourmet grocery store. Wash them (fine to wash them in water) and drain well. Slice.
Melt a good quantity of butter in a black cast-iron skillet and sauté mushrooms over medium heat, stirring. They will release their liquid. Keep cooking until all of liquid has cooked off and mushrooms are nicely browned, adding a bit more butter as they dry. When done, add several cloves of minced garlic , and sauté for a minute longer. Add sea salt, pepper, and lots of fresh parsley and serve hot.
You can serve these as a side dish or over a steak, but they make a nice main course as well. I like to ladle them over baked cheese grits (see recipe, post of 4/2010). They are also good served over toast points, popovers, or a baked potato, split open. Or, make mushroom bruschetta by spreading them over toasted baguette slices (cut them up fine for this).
Highlights from 'Comments' this week: Natalia, Mark, and Pete have firsthand experience with matters of the pig, and Pete’s pig was ‘the gentleman who paid the rent’! Patricia wants to paint the confit jars, and if you haven’t taken a peek at this American artist’s work (she lives in Italy), please head over to her website . Back to the coffee post of the week before, Jacqui is also raving about her Nespresso Machine. And thank you ALL for your nice comments about the blog, which keep me going!
Unless otherwise attributed, all POSTS, PHOTOS and RECIPES on this blog copyright ©2010 Lynn McBride. All Rights Reserved.