Monday, January 12, 2009

Freezer Foraging

I've been a couch potato lately. When Mama Nature puts down 15 inches of rain on Snoqualmie Pass in a single shout, effectively melting three feet of base, and submerges a 20-mile stretch of I-5 south of Seattle, I heed the warning: Stay home! We've got some biblical shite going down in these parts and you don't have to live in Carnation to see the writing on the wall, or the ring around the living room walls, as the case may be.

Which is all a way of saying I haven't been foraging much lately. A trip to the coast for the latest razor clam opener seemed like a dicey proposition—just ask the truckers who have been stranded on dry islands of highway for a few days—and river fishing is certainly out of the question. Too bad the squid jigging has been so poor this year, because that would be an attractive option right now. Next week I hope to get a shot at some blackmouth.

No, the freezer is my go-to foraging ground right now. I think I can safely say it's the best investment of zero dollars I've ever made. For the price of hauling it away, a colleague of mine gave me a stand-up freezer several years ago and I've kept it full of salmon, shad, crabs, shrimp, razor clams, mushrooms, nettles, berries, tubs of stock, and a bunch of other wild foods ever since. The real test will come if I get into hunting and start laying in hunks of meat.

It's a joy to walk downstairs to the basement to find a wild food du jour. Lately mushrooms have been feeding the jones: porcini with rabbit, chanterelles for Christmas dinner, lobster duxelles for our holiday party. Last night I hit the chanties again, of which I've got poundage, so I could bring a treat to Jani and Kathy's place for Pizza Night. I also brought over enough red wine to make Kathy give up the recipe behind the dough that makes her Napoli-style pizza so delicious...

Kathy's Pizza

Unfortunately, I'm not allowed to reveal it here on the Interwebs. But: much more goes into a pizza party at Jani and Kathy's that can be passed along for your own enjoyment and emulation. Rule #1 is to hand your guests a special drink the moment they walk through the door. Usually this means a whiskey sour, though during the coldest months it might also be a rum sour, as it was last night.

Next is the pizza making: It's a family affair, all hands on deck. A big pot of red sauce is already on the stovetop, thanks to Jani, but many other tasks are up for grabs, making the final 'za a team effort. The kitchen is stocked. Jani and Kathy own no fewer than three pizza stones and three wooden pallets. Various cheeses and toppings are scattered helter-skelter. The point is to roll up your sleeves and experiment.

Here is my contribution, with ample help from Kathy:

Wild Mushroom Pizza

1 lb butter
4 tbsp butter
2 tbsp fresh thyme
1/2 cup dry sherry
2 cups Gruyere cheese, shredded
1 cup smoked mozzarella, shredded
dough for one large pizza
olive oil
salt and pepper
garnish of fresh thyme sprigs and pink pepperberries (optional)

1. Saute chanterelles in butter for a few minutes over medium-high heat. Add sherry and thyme; season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook until liquid has evaporated, then blot dry and set aside.

2. Stretch and shape pizza dough into desired shape. Brush with olive oil, then top with cheese mixture. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 500 degrees until crust is lightly browned, about 6 minutes.

3. Remove pizza from oven and quickly top with mushrooms. Return to oven and bake until crust is golden, another 4 minutes or so.

4. Allow pizza to cool a couple minutes. Garnish with pepperberries and thyme.

The smoked mozzarella and chanterelles combine to make a very powerful woodsy flavor, which is accented by the thyme and pepperberries. This is not a frivolous pizza. I should also note that previously sauteed and frozen chanterelles will make it somewhat chewier than fresh chanties, though not in a way that is displeasing. Be prepared to wash it down with plenty of red wine.


dp said...

Portland was shut down during the week of Christmas due to shit weather. Our roof started leaking and there was nothing we could do about it because it was under about 6 inches of packed snow. We left our house on Christmas not knowing if our roof would still be standing when we got back. Roof was fine, but basement started leaking due to the heavy rains. I'm so over winter.

Sorry to go off on a tangent. I rant about the weather to anyone who listens.

I really wanted to say I'm wild about mushrooms and the pizza looks great.

Heather said...

I make a chanty pizza, too, but use chevre and arugula-pumpkin seed pesto. I LOVE the idea of smoked mozz.

I thought the snow wrecked our mushroom season. Are you growing yours somewhere, or are they back up?

Also, I really like your blog, too. Glad you're finding entertainment at mine.

Langdon Cook said...

[edit for bad link]

Thanks for stopping by DP and Heather...Portland is in da house! You're both on my blogroll now. I love the food and the 'tude on yr blogs. Hey, that rhymes!

I have to admit I've been digging the weather...well, not the flooding part, but snow in the PNW is such a treat. I just strap on the x-c skis and go for a tour of the 'hood. I hope your roof is under control, DP. My basement is a sieve too.

Heather, your recipe sounds amazing. I'll give it a whirl at the next pizza gig. As for those chanties and the other wild 'shrooms: Our season is over here. Yellowfoots and hedgehogs are the last to go, but I expect the snow did them in. I always make sure to harvest enough in the spring and fall to put up for year-round. Here's a post on how to freeze chanties (scroll down). And here's another about my experiment freezing porcini buttons and the results here. Bottom line: there's no reason not to eat wild mushrooms all year!


Laurie Constantino said...

The sherry with the mushrooms is a nice touch. What is it with the weather this year? In Alaska we've been having unbelievably cold weather, even for us. Washington's flooding sounds worse though.

Anonymous said...

Just found your blog and consider it the finest gift thus far of 2007.

Anonymous said...

LOL! And here I thought I'd consumed plenty of coffee this morning. For the record, I do know the year. I do. Really.

Off to soak my head...

Langdon Cook said...

Esmaa, I know absinthe is making a comeback and all, but try to lay off the hard stuff...Glad to have you aboard!