Bread & Brown Buttered Hen of the Woods

October 29, 2011 § 3 Comments

It’s short & simple: the best ingredients yield the most impressive products. Now, enter foraged mushrooms, the epitome of good ingredients, into the equation & you’re bound to have a product that even the meek-mushroom-deniers will desire.

Hen of the Woods, Grifola frondosa, or Maitaki is a common mushroom in the Northeast.

The art (or sport) of foraging mushrooms has been seriously dismissed in some parts of this country, but it’s certainly exciting that there is a rising interest in the sport (we can call it a sport right?). Because mushrooms occur in the same, much sought after “secret spots” each year, mushroom knowledge is usually passed down between generations. Once someone in the family finds a spot, it’s to that spot they’ll return annually when the season for the mushrooms arrives.

This recipe is easy & can be duplicated with anything from fish to eggplant. The most important thing to keep in mind is that what you make your bread crumbs out of does mater. Like I said earlier, what you put in is what you get out. An old loaf of sourdough, buttery crackers, or a stale grainy baguette all work, but the secret is to mix whatever you use with a cup of walnuts (a trick that my mom taught me).

Looks like chicken, but it's not, I promise.

Bread & Brown Buttered Hen of the Woods

2 packages of your favorite whole wheat crackers*, 1/2 cup walnuts,  10, 2-3oz hen of the woods “filets”, 1 egg,  1/2 cup organic whole milk,  2 Tbsp butter** &  salt & pepper to taste

*You can use anything, Late July, Barbara’s Wheaties, Back to Nature, or even Ritz crackers. If you do use bread, be sure the loaf is at least 2 days old & has been baked so that it hardens (like toast).

**olive oil, grape seed oil, coconut oil, or ghee works well here too, they just should not be browned.

Beating lightly, combine egg & milk in a large bowl until homogenous. Add the “filets” & let them soak for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, pulse crackers & walnuts in a food processor until they become granulated, but not dusty. Dump half of the bread crumbs in a plastic bag & the other half on to a large plate.  In a skillet brown the butter over medium-high heat. Browning the butter (for more about brown butter check out the last post) will take about 3-4 minutes over high heat.

One by one coat the soaked filets in bread crumbs & add them to the pan (if needed, add more bread crumbs to the plate as you go). Adjust the heat to medium & let the breaded filets cook for 5-7 minutes until golden brown. Flip & repeat until both sides are golden & slightly crunchy. You may need to add more butter or oil if you notice the pan looks “dry”.

Serve over a bed of greens or as a grilled pizza topping. This recipe can also be used to bread any white fish or for eggplant. If you are using it to bread fish, soak the fish filets & prepare the bread crumbs the same way, but bake the fish (in a baking dish coated with olive oil) at 350 degrees F, for 35 minutes, or until flaky.

Have you ever foraged wild mushrooms before? If so, please share your experience & your suggestions for cooking/baking/pickling them!


Black & White Pizza

August 31, 2011 § 2 Comments

When a mushroom forager came into the health food store where I work boasting about the trumpet mushrooms he had foraged that morning, I knew exactly what I was making for dinner. Last winter Shann & I tried black trumpet mushrooms as part of a venison entree he ordered at a favorite restaurant, Five Leaves, in Brooklyn, NY.  The black trumpets were unforgettable, so I’m sure you can imagine my excitement when these fantastical little delicacies were placed into my care.

Black trumpet mushrooms can not be grown at home in spores, but their wildness makes them all the more intriguing. Black trumpets thrive in a symbiotic relationship, enriching the roots of trees in their environment (as many mushrooms do) & when consumed, are one of the most abundant non-animal sources of the vitamin D.

Black trumpets with Thai basil flowers add an unexpected color scheme to the top of any pizza, crisonti, or salad.

Black trumpet mushrooms, also known as the Black Trumpet of Death or Black Chanterelles, are smokey flavored plumes with a light fruity fragrance. These mushrooms, according to the mushroom man, are the closest tasting mushroom to the infamous truffle, which must be pretty darn good based on the smooth flavor of the trumpets.  The mushrooms start off ashy gray in color, but morph into a deep charcoal black when cooked. Cooking is necessary, as is brushing off any organic matter, but I would not recommend washing them. If they get wet, then they end up too mushy.

Black & White Pizza

2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast,  1 3/4 cup warm water,  3 cups whole wheat pastry flour,  1 1/2 cups all purpose flour, 1 tsp sea salt,  1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil,  1 Tbsp dark honey

10 fingerling* potatoes, boiled & sliced into 1/4 thick coins or strips,  2 cups black trumpets (or other wild mushrooms),  6 Tbsp organic butter,  1 cup ricotta cheese,  1/2 white onion, sliced into thin rounds,  300 grams buffalo mozzarella, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices,  1/4 cup lamb confit**,  2 Tbsp cornmeal,  2 Tbsp fresh basil flowers

*Any small potatoes work equally as well if fingerling potatoes are not on hand. **The con fit is not necessary if you do not have it on hand, but it with the mushrooms, it does make for quite a savory pizza.

  Mix yeast, honey, 3/4 cup of warm water & a 1/2 cup of all purpose flour in a large bowl. Once foamy, add 3 cups of pastry flour, the salt, olive oil & the rest the water (1 cup). Mix, then knead in the last cup of all purpose flour 1/4 cup at a time until smooth. Aim for a soft dough that is not too dry, but is not sticky either.

Cover the dough & let it rise for 2 hours or refrigerated overnight. When ready to use split the dough in half, this recipe makes two pizzas.

Preheat oven to 550 degrees Fahrenheit at least 30 minutes before you are ready to use the oven. Put pizza stone into the oven to preheat it. Brown the butter over medium-high heat in a saute pan. Browning butter is all about waiting until it is slightly golden & gives off a nutty fragrance. This should take no more than 3-5 minutes if the pan is warm. Add the mushrooms & cook for  5-7 minutes, or until they darken. Remove the brown butter & mushrooms from the heat until ready to use (this is important or the mushrooms WILL burn).

Sprinkle cornmeal on the heated stone. Using your fingers to press the dough to spread it out over the whole stone. Add ricotta, spreading to cover dough, add onions, potatoes, mushrooms & con fit. Bake for 15 minutes until the bottom of the dough hardens slightly. Check the pizza after 5 minutes, you may need to tent the pizza with tin foil if the mushrooms look like they are drying out.

When the pizza is finished, top with basil flowers, arugula, or nasturtiums & serve.

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