Monday, September 23, 2013

Mushrooming Success At Last

After years of pining for wild mushrooms, last year I finally remembered to search for them after the first rains of fall. By unfortunate coincidence for me it was a notably bad year, having been spectacularly dry until the 15th of October.

Yesterday my unfulfilled mushrooming desires were finally satisfied. And, my work the previous year was put to use. You see, despite the dearth of edibles last year, I was able to find a very distinctive specimen, which I later found out is edible. So, this year, wanting not to be "skunked", I took our group to the same location I found those "Lobster Mushrooms" from the year before.

Here I am holding one from yesterday's trip:
This is a "Lobster Mushroom", which is actually two mushrooms, one parasitizing the other. Despite the perhaps unappetizing sound of that, they are edible and satisfyingly large and plentiful, so that your basket rapidly gains heft.

As satisfying as the easy-to-find and hefty Lobster's were, we nonetheless were not satisfied, having set as our goal the elusive and purportedly delicious chanterelle.

By the book, our location should have been perfect for chanterelles. It has a nice spongey, moss-covered forest floor. 

But first we found some conspicuous specimens, perhaps Amanita pachycholea:
As this picture demonstrates, the span of this cap is somewhere between saucer and salad plate!

And this one has a known characteristic of Amanita, the "membraneous patch" on the cap. Yes, that random-looking "fried egg" on the top of this one was formed on the mushroom, not dropped there by a careless camper. The patch was literally the size of a fried-egg from a bantam hen.

These Amanitas are not recommended for eating. Anyway we were eschewing every "gilled" variety and following the advice of the book "Mushrooming Without Fear", since we are amateur mushroom hunters.

We had reached the apex of our search, turned around and perhaps started to believe that there would be no chanterelles for us that day. 

But then, among all the yellowish brown maple leaves and the yellowish brown gilled mushrooms and the ones coming out of fallen branches, of which none were our target, Arthur spotted something slightly different. I was prepared to dispense with this find in much the same manner I had reasoned away all previous proposals. 

But I could not.

There is, after all, no good reason that a mushroom hunter should reject a golden, trumpet-shaped, erratically ridged mushroom (that also matches the color bar in his book!). The ridges were a matte, ever-so-slightly to the pink of the rest of the stem, which was predominantly yellowish-white.

Here's the first one Arthur found:
Cantharellus cascadensis
The-eh first chanterelle of the season...oh the first chanterelle....of the year!

Once that first little "gold nugget" was found, it may as well have been actual gold, we got the fever so bad. We scoured the area with heightened excitement. Soon gathering enough to fill a dinner-plate:
This cooked down to about 25% the volume, but increased in flavor by about 1,000%

A great time was really had by all. I fulfilled my years-long obsession with finding delicious cuisine in the forest. And everyone enjoyed "the hunt".

I fried them with olive-oil, butter, salt and thyme and served them with linguini and neapolitan-style red-sauce from our home-grown tomatoes (that recipe shown to us by my aunt Mimi on our honeymoon in Italy).