Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mushroom Hunt 3: The Olympics

A week ago we took the ferry over across the Sound, grabbed my parents, and went mushrooming out in the Olympic National Forest. It's been a dry summer here, the Cascades have been pretty sorry for mushrooms, and rumor had it that the Olympics were much more productive.

Of course, I'd never hunted there and had no idea where to go. I briefly considered going all the way out to the Quinault Rain Forest, which is supposed to be a kind of mushroom nirvana, but it was too far for a casual day outing like this. Maybe some other time. So we just headed off to the Quilcene Ranger Station and asked them. They were of little help where mushroom sweet spots were concerned, but did point out a nice loop we could do on forest roads that would take us around to different elevations in the nearby mountains. So we set off, figuring we'd just pull over at likely looking spots.

The first two spots did produce some interesting mushrooms, but nothing particularly edible. And we were on a hunt. A hunt for the wily Porcini and the, um, slightly less wily Chanterelle.

On the bright side there were lots of Banana Slugs...

So we kept driving. The forest ranged from Doug Fir and moss floor, to recently logged thick underbrush, to hemlock and alder in the wetter areas. Many parts were too steep to easily search.

Higher up we found a trailhead and decided to park and follow the trail a ways. We quickly found and harvested some good Wolf Fart puffballs (Morganella pyriformis). Further up the trail we came to a washout, loaded with small trees and covered in various kinds of Boletes and Suillus. The problem was that they were all pretty old, pretty wormy, and not Boletus edulis, the King Bolete, our sought after pal the Porcini. Still, we field cleaned some of the better looking specimens and brought them home to decide on eating them after more book consultation. I really am pretty new to boletes, and though most of them are safe to eat we still operate under a 'When in doubt, toss it out' philosophy.

My dad found this happy clump of mushrooms growing under a stump. I have not been able to positively identify this mushroom. It reminds me of Enoki mushrooms, which are a Flammulina, but Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest doesn't have them in it.

Enokis are white when you get them in the grocery store because they are cultivated in the dark. But in the wild, they take on an orangy color. Here, these are a sortof purple brown. It's a mystery.

Sad too, enokitake are delicious!

We moved on to our fourth location, a logging road off the main drag. Signs were good within moments. There were
Russula everywhere. A couple minutes into it my Mother let out a very excited "Woo hoo!" Chanterelles ahoy! We began to cover the area and found several more. Things quieted down for a bit, then Meredith and my mother found a hillside Mother Load.

Chanterelles everywhere.

Before long we were spoiled for choice and leaving the little ones behind. (That is, ones that were over the legal 1" minimum but still fairly small. Obviously, you leave the really little guys to get bigger!) Some of them were quite large, 4-5" in diameter, 6" long.

My mother was a seriously happy camper.
(I love this photo! Too bad it's a bit blurry.)

We picked as many as we could find, which was quite a lot actually, and decided it was time to head home. The legal limit is one gallon of a particular variety and three gallons of three varieties. We were near the Chanterelle limit. For one person... But the forest had been good to us, no need to be gluttons. We did make an important stop on the way home though.

The grocery store for wine and butter!

It was a nice warm day evening, so we sat on the front porch with a nice cold beer, cleaning and identifying our finds for the day. The total ended up being 104 chanterelles, with two being White Chanterelles (they do grow in the same areas).

A total of six pounds!

Dinner was going to be good...

We had three mushrooms to work with. Chanterelles, obviously. There was just a question of how many to use... We had about half a pound of puffballs. And of all the boletes we found that day, it turned out a couple from the neighbor's field were in the best shape and so we had a few of those.

Chicken and Chanterelles

We had some chicken breasts so we pan seared them with some salt and pepper, then finished in the oven. Made a sauce with a clove of garlic, a chopped shallot, a pound of sliced Chanterelles, and some butter. Added some white wine, a weird Chardonnay my parents had picked up in Oregon. The vintner was, um, new to the game and messed up his sterile filtration. So some yeast got in the bottles and made, well, Chardpagne. He was selling it for $5 to get rid of it. It was interesting... Petilent is word I'm looking for. But it made a good sauce. So with the wine in, we finished with the drippings from the chicken pan, sour cream and more butter. The sauce was spine tingling good. You know how it is when you taste something and it makes your shoulders bunch up and a big smile spread across your face? Yeah. Served copious amounts on the chicken breasts.

Zucchini and Wolf Farts

Oh little Wolf Farts. Like little mushroom marshmellows. Last time I cooked them they got lost in the sauce, became little barely-there mushies. So this time we chopped a zucchini from the garden, and sauteed it and the puffballs with two cloves of garlic in some olive oil. Added Herbs de Provence to taste. This dish was all about texture, the mushrooms and the zucchini were texturally indistinguishable. Very interesting.

Roast Potatoes and Boletes

Sliced some potatoes into wedges. Salt, pepper, oil, oven. Par cooked them, then added the sliced boletes and finished cooking it all together in the oven. A nice side. Potatoes went very well with the Chanterelle sauce...


We divided up the loot and headed home. I had about two and a half pounds of Chanterelles. Cooked up an awesome Chanterelle cream sauce with about a half pound of them, some of my homemade pancetta, and a caramelized leek, served on fresh made tagliatelle. Oh man.

I took a half pound, chopped them fine, put them in a mason jar, and covered in Tito's Vodka. This will sit for two weeks, then run through a coffee filter to make a sort of Chanterelle Schnapps. This will be added to a Belgian Golden I'll brew in the next few weeks to make a Chanterelle Beer based on Randy Mosher's recipe in Radical Brewing. Can't wait to see how that turns out!

The rest of the Chanterelles were cleaned and sliced, sauteed in butter and then frozen in several tupperwares. Now I can just bring them out and heat, instant pasta sauce or whatever.

We're probably going out again in a week or two. And you better believe I marked that spot on the map!


Trish said...

So we'll have chantrelles when I come home yes?

Russell Hews Everett said...

Ha, you wish. Ok maybe I'll save some. But I am gearing up for cider in a couple weeks...

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