Until very recently, finding the exotic and delicious wild varieties of mushrooms was very difficult. You needed specialized knowledge of edible versus poisonous plus you needed to know where to find them.
We used to be able to find only the white button mushroom on our supermarket shelves. That has all changed and we now find cremini, shiitake, oyster, portabella and dried porcini mushrooms alongside the white ones. And, to further enhance our choices, small mushroom farms have appeared in many communities, including the North Fork. The farmers are growing shiitakes, maitakes, hedgehogs, pioppino, chanterelles and other hard-to-find varieties. They sell their perishable treasures to fine restaurants, at farmer’s markets and over the counter.
Using these mushrooms in your cooking adds a new dimension of flavor and variety. The wild varieties have a meaty texture and earthy aroma that complement hearty stews, risottos and red wine. Here are a few suggestions:
Papparadelle with Mushrooms
Purchase a 1-ounce container of dried porcini mushrooms and 1 package each of fresh maitake, shiitake and pioppino mushrooms. Soak the porcinis in 2 cups hot tap water for 30 minutes. Trim the stems off the shiitakes and slice. Trim the stems off the maitakes and break the clusters apart. Trim just the very end of the pioppinos and cut the stems into 1-inch pieces.
Heat a large sauté pan and add 2 tablespoons olive oil. When hot, add all of the fresh mushrooms and cook at high heat for 5 minutes, tossing them to prevent burning.
Strain the porcinis, reserve the liquid and chop coarsely. Add them to the sauté pan with the other mushrooms.
Continue cooking, lower the heat to medium and add 1/2 cup chopped shallots and 1 tablespoon minced garlic. Cook another 3 minutes and stir in 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, 2 tablespoons butter, 1/2 cup chicken stock, 1/2 cup of the reserved porcini liquid and 1/2 cup heavy cream. Add 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1 teaspoon ground pepper and bring back to a boil.
Remove from the heat and stir in 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Separately, bring 3 quarts water to a boil in a pasta pot and add 1 package of papparadelle noodles. (You can substitute fettuccine). Cook the pasta till al dente and drain.
Combine the pasta with the mushroom mixture and serve in pasta bowls.
Chicken Thighs in Red Wine with Mushrooms
Make 8 boneless pieces of chicken thighs by cutting four thighs in half and removing the bones, leaving the skin on.
Purchase 1 package each of portabella, shiitake, oyster and cre-mini mushrooms along with 1 ounce of dried porcini mushrooms.
Place the porcini mushrooms in 2 cups hot tap water and let sit for 30 minutes; scrape the gills out of the portabella caps and cut into 1-inch pieces; trim the stems off the shiitakes and slice the caps; and slice the oyster and cremini mushrooms. Place all the fresh mushrooms in a bowl and set aside.
Heat a Dutch oven and add 1 tablespoon canola oil. Brown the chicken thighs, skin side down, at high heat and remove.
Lower the heat and add 1/2 cup chopped shallots, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1 diced carrot and 1 diced stalk of celery. Cook at low heat for 5 minutes and stir in 2 tablespoons flour. Raise the heat, add 1 cup red wine and bring to a boil.
Strain the porcini mushrooms and reserve the soaking liquid. Add 1 cup of this to the wine mixture along with 2 sprigs of fresh thyme and a bay leaf. Add back the chicken thighs and simmer for 30 minutes.
Chop the porcini mushrooms and add them to the bowl of fresh mushrooms. Heat a large sauté pan and add 2 tablespoons butter. Add all of the mushrooms and cook at medium-high heat for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat and cook until the mushrooms release their moisture and begin to brown.
Remove the thyme and bay leaf from the chicken mixture and add the cooked mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with either wild or brown rice.
Swiss-Style Veal with Mushrooms and potato Dumplings
Purchase 1 pound of veal cutlets, 1 package of white beech mushrooms and 1 package of dried oyster mushrooms.
Place the veal cutlets between two sheets of plastic film and pound them as thin as possible, then cut them into 3-inch medallions and set aside.
Soak the dried mushrooms in 2 cups hot tap water for 30 minutes. Trim the bases off the white beech mushrooms and break them apart.
For the dumplings: Bring to a boil 2 quarts water and place 4 russet potatoes in it. Simmer until fully cooked, about 40 minutes, then cool. Peel, cut into large chunks and press through a potato ricer into a large bowl.
Whisk together 1 cup flour, 1 cup farina, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper and 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg. Add this mixture to the potatoes along with 4 beaten eggs. Stir it all together with a wooden spoon and form into a dough. Using your hands, roll the dough into small balls the size of a golf ball.
Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a pasta pot and add the dumplings. Let them rise to the surface and remove with a slotted spoon.
For the veal and mushrooms: Heat a large sauté pan and add 2 tablespoons butter. Add 12 fresh sage leaves and cook until crisp, then remove.
Season the veal medallions with salt and pepper and dust in 1 cup flour. Brown very quickly in the butter and remove.
Lower the heat and add 1/2 cup chopped shallots to the pan. Strain the dried mushrooms and chop, reserving the liquid.
Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to the pan along with the chopped dried mushrooms and the white beech mushrooms. Cook at high heat until they release their moisture and begin to brown. Stir in 2 tablespoons flour and 1/2 cup each of the mushroom liquid, chicken stock and heavy cream. Add the zest and juice of 1 lemon and add back the veal. Simmer for 5 minutes and check for seasoning.
Serve with the dumplings and garnish with the crisp sage leaves.
Note: The mushrooms were purchased from our local mushroom store in Cutchogue. You can substitute regular white button mushrooms for the white beech variety if necessary.