If you live in France and love to eat, you cannot wait for late summer, autumn, then early spring. This has nothing and everything to do with the weather but here is a hint: a good, hard rain is part of the anticipation.
Yearning for Moisture
But who loves rain? Well, wild mushrooms do. They yearn for moisture, they blossom when rain drops thump on the forest duff above their heads, and their caps push up and out as they greet the ideal conditions for their growth. And grow they do, all over the land, at an almost alarming rate. One day, a walk in the woods is a sad and empty thing; the following day after a rain and it becomes a feast for the eyes, the nose, and the basket you’ve brought to hold wild mushrooms.
The Mushroom Queen
While all wild mushrooms are popular in France, the acknowledged queen is the cèpe, Boletus edulis. Tall, stately, with a large, sometimes huge, meaty cap and a bulbous stem, he is the Herculean mushroom everyone looks for, because the flavor and texture are so wildly deep and rich. The cèpe is wily, shooting up in spots where no one expects, and often not reappearing where he has always shown up. So, “hunting” is the apt term for what one does to find mushrooms.
One Perfect Mushroom
Here I take one giant cèpe and sauté it, just to show you how. Why one? Because ONE perfect mushroom at the market jumped out and tapped me on the shoulder, so I got it for you. I had lots more planned for you all, but I had to show you this, so we slipped it into the schedule! But the thing is, with one mushroom that size you can season an omelette or a salad, put it on garlic rubbed toast for two, sauté and add it to a soup and its flavor will add a touch of perfection.
Make Sure of What You are Eating
So next time you find a cèpe, or any wild mushroom, make sure it’s edible (here, we can take them to the pharmacy; you consult a good mushroom book or a local expert), then brush it clean and go to town!
CEPE MUSHROOM WITH SAUTEED GARLIC
- 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil extra virgin
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 10 ounces;300g wild mushrooms, preferably cèpe, cleaned, trimmed, thinly sliced
- 1 large clove gariic minced
- Black pepper to taste
- Fine sea salt
- 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley leaves
- Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the mushrooms and cook, stirring and shaking the pan, until they begin to wilt and give up some of thier liquid, which will take 3 to 4 minutes.
- Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper, shake the pan so the seasoning is mixed in, then add the garlic and continue to cook, stirring and shaking the pan, until the mushrooms are tender and almost "floppy" yet golden on the edges, and the garlic is golden, 5 to 7 minutes.
- Mince the parsley, and add it to the mushrooms, shaking the pan and stirring with a wooden spatula at the same time. When all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed, either transfer the mushrooms to a serving dish and serve, or use them for whatever you have intended.