|Mushrooms at a green grocer stand in Montmartre's Rue des Abbesses|
Fall is the season of mushrooms. All sorts of mushrooms.
Those of you whose relationship with mushrooms ends at the can opener have a whole new world to discover.
In France one of the main pastimes on a crisp fall day is to grab the trusty old wicker basket, don a pair of Wellies (as the British call their rubber boots) and head out to the nearest forest in search of something to pep up a simple omelet or whip into a sauce for a slab of beef. And to make sure they’re not poisonous, you can always take them to the pharmacist, who studied mushroomology in medical school. Seriously.
Where people find their truffes (truffles) is always a family secret, because they’re worth their weight in gold. But other mushroom spots are also kept secret. Don’t ask someone where he found those beautiful cèpes because he won’t tell. You’ll have to find your own. Morilles (morels) are also prized, as many Michigan residents know, but that's more in the spring or early summer. And then there are chanterelles, pleurottes, trompettes de la mort, pieds de mouton, etc. Try a few; you’ll be surprised at the range of flavors they have!
You have to clean the girolles, as their folds and wrinkles tend to hide soil and perhaps the odd little beast. After you cut off the very tip of the stem, and anything that seems hard, put them in water with a bit of vinegar (save your balsamic). Then scoop them up right away and plunge them in a second basin of water and vinegar. That should clean them well. NEVER leave them to soak; they’re like little sponges and they’ll fill up with water.
Then simply place them on a linen towel or some paper toweling and pat them dry.
Some people will say this is heresy and you NEVER get girolles wet. If you know where they come from and they look fairly clean, you can just remove any remaining dirt off with a small brush. The French have “mushroom brushes” but I’ve been known to use a nail brush on mine.
|So many kinds of mushrooms|
Next heat some good olive oil and make them “sweat” a bit under low heat until they’ve become a bit soft and given off their puddle of water. If there’s no puddle of water, move on to the next step directly. (Sometimes there is none, but any water left from the rinsing will be eliminated this way.)
Pour off this “mushroom water” and, using the same pan, heat up a mixture of half olive oil half butter. (No, put that margarine back in the fridge!) Add the mushrooms and sauté them over low heat for about 5 minutes. Too much and they’ll be dry and hard.
Then add some chopped shallots and at the very last second a bit of finely chopped garlic.
Pour into a pretty serving bowl and sprinkle with some chopped flat parsley to add some color and another layer of flavor.
|Cèpes in the foreground, pre-sliced|
You can also make this with a mixture of mushrooms. Pleurottes and pieds de mouton will take a little longer to cook as they’re thicker, so start with them and then add in the girolles. Cèpes are better all by themselves.
|Suggestion for another dish:|
veal scallop with girolles
(same recipe, but as a side dish)