Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Seattle Book Events

Two pieces of good news: The Mushroom Hunters was just short-listed for the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Awards (thank you local indies!), and my first TV interview will be broadcast on the PBS show Well Read. Admittedly, I didn't sleep much before the interview (and I had a frog in my throat, the first cold of the season), but the 30-minute conversation flew by in a blink, and I thoroughly enjoyed talking with host Terry Tazioli, who is smart, curious, and an all-around good guy.

I'll be staying close to home through the remainder of 2013, with plenty of readings and slide talks planned for the Seattle area. If you're curious about edible fungi or the hidden subculture of mushroom pickers and buyers, stop by one of these events:

Friday, November 15, 2013

Next Stop, the Big Apple

The West is now home, but I never pass up a chance to revisit my childhood roots and plug into the electrical current that is New York City. On November 21, at 7 p.m., Slow Food NYC is hosting me for a slide presentation in Brooklyn, at Fitzcarraldo restaurant, and I guarantee a good time for all.

The picture above was snapped a few years ago from the inside of a wild mushroom delivery van at dawn as it hustled several hundred pounds of Oregon chanterelles from Newark International Airport to the finest restaurants in Manhattan and Brooklyn. You can't research North America's fast-and-loose wild mushroom trade and not visit the most fabled eateries on the continent, where fungi have been elevated to a place among the top ingredients in a chef's pantry. I write about my time in New York in a chapter titled "Ingredients as Art," a phrase borrowed from Sam Sifton's 4-star review of Del Posto in The New York Times. President Obama happened to be in town to light the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, and Occupy Wall Street protesters had just been evicted from Zuccotti Park. As always, electricity was in the air.

If you're in the New York area and you're curious about the wild mushroom trail—and the colorful characters who make their living on this itinerant, informal circuit—then come on by, have a beer, and stay for the presentation. I'll be showing slides and talking about the book.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Pickled Chanterelles

As reported in earlier posts, the Pacific Northwest's fall mushroom season has been a boon to recreational pickers this year. Kings, matsutake, chanterelles, sparassis, and others are fruiting in big numbers, and such abundance encourages us to get creative with how we stock the larder.

Most years I'll sauté and freeze more than enough chanterelles, to name but one variety, to get me through the rest of the year. This season I'm taking it a bit further. I'm dehydrating and powdering the mushrooms to make a Chanterelle Spice Rub, and I'm also pickling them.

Here's a very simple way to pickle chanties. The key is to get as much moisture out of the mushrooms before pickling so that they can then be bathed in liquid later. This makes for flavorful mushrooms with good texture. You can use any sort of vinegar, but cider vinegar complements the hints of stone fruit in chanterelles, while the addition of water insures that the mushroom's delicate flavor isn't overpowered.

2 lbs chanterelles
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp kosher salt, plus a pinch
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp pickling spices *

* I used a commercial pickling blend that included black peppercorns, allspice, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, bay leaf, red chili pepper, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, mace, and cardamon. An equivalent amount of black peppercorns, allspice, and coriander seeds is fine, plus a bay leaf.

1. Use button chanterelles if possible. Clean carefully. Keep small mushrooms whole; cut larger ones in half or quarters.

2. Heat a deep sauté pan over medium without oil or butter. Add chanterelles and stir immediately, continuing to stir at an easy pace until the mushrooms begin to release their water. Increase the heat to high and continue to stir until most of the water has evaporated. Sprinkle a healthy pinch of salt over the chanterelles and reduce heat again to medium.

3. Add vinegar, water, salt, sugar, and pickling spices. Simmer 5 minutes.

4. Use a slotted spoon to pack mushrooms into sterilized jars. Pour liquid and spices over to cover, with a quarter-inch of head room. Top off with more vinegar if necessary.

5. Seal jars and process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes.