Sunday, June 22, 2008

Like a Pot of Gold in the Forest

The weather in France has been unusually cold and rainy for the past few weeks - the perfect conditions for mushrooms to grow. In June, the temperatures are usually like in California, making way to a very hot July and August. 

My father went to pick some mushrooms in the nearby woods of my village. Both he and my grandfathers have always enjoyed doing this. These woods, boy do I know them! I grew up walking and playing in them! I loved going there with my Mom to pick big bouquets of Daffodils and Lily of the Valleys. Very Laura Ingalls Wilder I hear you say? You bet I was!

These woods are the perfect environment for champignons (that's mushrooms in French) to grow: humidity, rain, dead leaves, moss. And the kit for the mushroom hunter? A small knife (we use Opinel knives in my family) and a wicker basket (never use plastic bags; mushrooms need to breathe). You enter the woods and soon, you become one with the trees, the bushes, the flowers and the small critters. Your senses become acute: woodsy and herby smells; beams of sunlight shining through the tall trees; you hear the rustle of the leaves, you feel the soft squishy ground under your feet.

When you spot a mushroom (edible that is), you feel like you have found the pot of gold and you already envision a big plate served on the dinner table, while narrating your mushroom adventures to admiring friends.  But don't forget, you are at the mercy of Mother Nature! Today you might find a full basket of mushrooms, but a few days later you might only find a small handful.

The mushrooms we commonly find around my village are Chanterelles, Morels -  my favorites - , Black Trumpets, Porcini... Yesterday, my Dad found Chanterelles. 

There are many ways to enjoy mushrooms. With what my Dad found, my parents prepared a Chanterelles omelet:

I think I would have sauteed them with cream and parsley. Here's how I do that: 

Melt 2 tbsps of butter and add the mushrooms. Cover and let them cook for 5 minutes allowing the water to seep and evaporate. While the mushrooms are cooking, chop a small handful of parsley and mix with 5 tbsps of heavy cream. Add the cream and parsley to the mushrooms, once all the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper and cook for another 5 minutes, or until the cream has cooked down and the texture is thicker. Voila et Bon Appetit !

Now note that if you do not find Chanterelles in your grocery store, you could use simple Button mushrooms for this recipe. You could also add some garlic or shallots. But I like to keep the flavor of the mushrooms as intact as possible. My recipe is fantastic served with sauteed chicken or steak, along with some rice.

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