A friend of mine just recently moved to Seattle. He returned for a visit this weekend and brought me beautiful chanterelles. I get calls regularly after a rain from my brother who finds the most amazing chicken of the wood mushrooms behind his house. Last Wednesday I went for a run in my own special part of the woods and found wild oyster mushrooms for our September Eleventh Home Restaurant. At Rupperts we had a few people out searching for us regularly. Sometimes the competition was fierce where we had some accusing others of being impostors. We actually got a phone call from one of our mushroom hunters in a paranoid state: "if someone calls and trys to be me, it's not me, it's someone else trying to sell you mushrooms" ...OK, what mushrooms have you been delving into?
The great thing about DC is that Rock Creek Park is full of edible mushrooms and what a difference wild mushrooms make. When we were coming up in the eighties I can remember we called oyster and shiitake mushrooms we bought from farms wild. Rightfully they are now referred to as cultivated mushrooms as the wild are far superior.
A mushroom hunter that used to come to Rupperts taught us, if you find a mushroom, know that you can always touch it. That is to say there is no such thing as a poisonous to the touch mushroom. However eating is another story. And the best thing to do if you find one you are not familiar with is to bring it to an expert. Our Mushroom guys used to bring us mushrooms that John could only eat because he does not drink–the toxins are released by consuming with alcohol. I see lots of mushrooms in the woods but there are very few that I collect to eat, only the ones that I can positively identify.
As a vegetarian mushrooms are important to me for a few reasons but basically its the texture I enjoy, the masticating–the tearing apart of a fleshy texture with my teeth. Every Thanksgiving the key dish for us is a Mushroom stuffing full of onions, garlic, shallots, quinoa, olive oil and herbs. We saute the onions, garlic and shallots then add the mushrooms to cook until soft. Next we stir in cooked quinoa, olive oil and season with salt, pepper and herbs–sage is great. We throw it all into a cast iron skillet and bake until it is crispy. Of course we never know which types of mushroom we are going to find and if we do not find any there is always the farmers market.
These days we also rely on Fadia who has The Mushroom Stand at the Thursday Penn Quarter market and the Sunday Dupont market. I often call her during the week to see if she is bringing wild varieties to the market.
I hear it is going to rain on Wednesday, I will be looking for chicken of the woods, oysters and puffballs this weekend all of which I often find in DC during the fall.