Sunday, January 10, 2010

Mushrooms: A Love Affair

I love mushrooms! There are so many species and they carry such versatility: Shiitake Burger, Portabello Fajitas, Wild Mushroom Stroganoff, stuffed mushrooms. I could go on forever. It’s a mystery how a food so simple can be so satisfying and satiating.

They are also fascinating. There are so many species of mushrooms encompassing every color of the spectrum. Some mushrooms are prettier than the most lovely flower, while others are uglier than a mandrake. They can kill you, almost kill you, make you hallucinate, or land the starring role in a gourmet meal.

A friend once said to me, “I don’t believe in eating anything that doesn’t have any nutrients.” I cringed. First of all, this came from a girl who drinks diet soda, a product intentionally void of nutrients and loaded with man-made chemicals. Secondly, my favorite fungi may be low in macronutrients (a good thing during an obesity epidemic), but it does have them. Two grams of protein and two grams of carbohydrates, to be specific. That’s a grand total of 16 calories per serving (70 grams). Lastly, they boast significant amounts of micronutrients. Many species are high in fiber and provide thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and biotin (all of which are B vitamins), along with minerals such as selenium, potassium, and phosphorus.

As if I haven’t touted enough reasons to become a mushroom enthusiast, they also provide entertainment. It is a dream of mine to become a successful, avid hunter. A Mushroom Hunter. Mushroom hunters are not gatherers and should never be mistaken for one. It is a daunting, physically and mentally taxing skill that can be highly lucrative (wild mushrooms are expensive) and always rewarding. However, it can also be very dangerous. Identifying edible mushrooms (and avoiding their deadly analogs) is something that must be learned from an expert and they do not give away trade secrets readily. Hunters are very territorial over their treasure-yielding areas and often become aggressive and violent. Despite the dangers, engaging in such challenging work, even if I come home empty handed, is highly appealing. The two species which I am interested in hunting first are Morels and Chanterelles. Someday I will work myself up to truffles.

See you in the forest!

Wild Mushroom Stroganoff:

Olive Oil

1 Small yellow onion, diced

2-3 cups dried, wild mushrooms, reconstituted (chanterelle, porcini, shiitake, cremini)

1 bottle white wine (chardonnay or sauvignon)

1 Tablespoon whole wheat pastry flour

4 cups espagnole sauce

1/2 cup soy sour cream

1 Tablespoon ground mustard

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

Reconstitute Mushrooms in 1/2 bottle wine plus water. Saute onion (with salt) in olive oil, then add mushrooms and saute with salt and pepper. Once onion and mushrooms are sauteed, sprinkle in flour and cook to a paste. Add the sauce espagnole and cook at a slow simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Mix the soy sour cream and mustard together. Pour into the sauce and heat throughout. Drink rest of wine while cooking.

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