Our craving for these flavorful fungi has made hunting, gathering and dining on mushrooms a modern-day pastime.
By Mary Brown Malouf, Photos by Adam Finkle
Neither plant nor animal, mushrooms have been part of mankind’s pantry for thousands of years. Some cultures use them as medicines. In the West, we value them for flavor. Whether you forage them from the woods or the grocery store, mushrooms add a wild earthy quality to all kinds of dishes, raw and cooked.
The Mushroom Man
Mushroom expert Dan Potts
Expert Dan Potts IDs eight edible ‘shrooms novice foragers should seek out.
- Puffballs: There are no known poisonous puffballs, says Potts, though some don’t taste great.
- Shaggy mane and other inky caps: The caps melt into inky black goo as they age, but they’re good in soups.
- Meadow mushrooms: These look like commercial button mushrooms.
- Coral mushrooms: They taste a little like cauliflower; use sparingly because of the strong flavor.
- Oyster mushrooms: Grow on stumps of Fremont Cottonwoods
- Boletus: Found mostly at higher elevations
- Chanterelle: Rarer, but one of the most delicious local finds
- Morels: The distinctive cone-shaped and pitted cap marks one of the best of all mushrooms.
Potts’ final word of mushroom wisdom: Cook them in butter.
Dining on Duxelles
A staple ingredient from classic French cuisine, the mixture called duxelles has a thousand uses in the kitchen: Stuff ravioli with duxelles, use it in pasta sauce, stuff it into beef Wellington or fold it into a pocket tart. The key is to reduce the liquid from the mushrooms so you have a concentrated mushroom flavor. The recipe was supposedly created by legendary 17th-century French chef La Varenne, so there has been plenty of time for the invention of countless variations.
Melt 2 to 3 Tbsp. butter, add 1 minced garlic clove and 2 minced shallots. Saute for a minute, until softened. Add 1-pound mushrooms, chopped small, and cook until mushrooms have softened and released their liquid. Then raise heat to medium-high and cook until the liquid evaporates. Season with salt and pepper. You can freeze it if you’re not going to use it right away.
Usually, bruschetta calls to mind the flavors of summer-grill smoke, ripe tomatoes and fresh basil. But bruschetta is a great cold weather nosh or appetizer, too. The secret is mushrooms.
- 1 baguette, sliced diagonally
- 3 to 4 Tbsp. olive oil
- 3 minced garlic cloves
- 1 pound mixed mushrooms, sliced or chopped into similar-sized pieces
- 3 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
- 1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
Toast the bread slices. Gently sauté the garlic in the olive oil until it’s soft, then add the mushrooms and turn up the heat. Cook 3 or 4 minutes, season with salt and pepper and remove from heat. Stir in the parsley and thyme and spoon the mushrooms over the toast. You can spread the toast with soft goat cheese or ricotta before spooning on the mushrooms.
You can add a couple of teaspoons of balsamic vinegar to the mushrooms while they cook. You can crumble blue cheese over the mushrooms. We could go on and on with variations, but you get the idea.
Mushrooms on the Menu
Chef Nathan Powers makes flour from dried porcini, then uses the flour mixed with ricotta to make gnocchi that are tossed with pork belly conflt and pea sprouts in pea and fennel broth. As an appetizer, he grills sourdough bread, then tops it with frisee, a fried egg, mushrooms and a red wine marrow sauce.
202 S. Main St., SLC, 801-363-5454
Chef Phelix Gardner’s Tosta de Setas layers mushrooms and pickled shallots with smoked ricotta on toast.
1291 S. 1100 East, SLC, 801-487-0699
Chef Dave Jones’ “Alpine Nachos” start with house made chips, which are piled with speck, forest mushrooms and fontina cheese. An entree features pine-smoked duck with porcini pappardelle.
6451 E. Millcreek Canyon Rd., SLC, 801-272-8255
The French, of course, are famous for fabulous mushroom dishes and The Paris serves many: Tartine aux Champignons de Bois (garlic, thyme and wild mushroom fricassee with black truffle on a croutons) and classic grilled steak with roasted fingerling potatoes and wild mushrooms to name two.
1500 S. 1500 East, SLC, 801-486-5585