Chasing Childhood

Foraging for Mushrooms in the Forest

Come along for this November Invite, as we take you fall foraging and give you a taste of picking wildly edible mushrooms, family recipes, and treasured family stories.


I’m giddy. Fall leaves are cartwheeling across the forest floor in the autumn breeze, and moss is dripping from trees. I’m thigh-high in ferns, tailing my expert guide, Marian Maxwell, and flashing back to culinary mushrooming adventures with my Italian-born grandmother, Nettie. Back in the day, our family would hunt for Chanterelles and Shaggy Main. My grandmother was known as the Hoover, as in the vacuum by the same name, and I’d shadow her with my little bucket and butter knife.

Grandma often wore a warm wool coat with a fur collar. Mushrooming season coincides with deer-hunting season. There were close calls — we were shot at once, got lost in the woods more than once (I thought that was a normal childhood thing?), but it was always a sublime time.

Even for experts, though, wild mushrooms can be elusive. The delectable edible ones like to hide in plain sight. Dry weather at the time of our shoot could mean we get shut out entirely. But just a few minutes in, we find a plucky pair of Porcinis, right in the open.

What are the chances? (In Italy, fall Porcinis are considered the king of mushrooms. Coincidence? Or perhaps it’s Grandma Nettie at work here?). I get to do the honors. Though we continue to comb the forest floor seeing wondrous things, that was it for wild mushrooms on this day. A day that was, nonetheless, nothing short of magical.

BRINGING THE FOREST FEEL INSIDE

Create a big leafy bouquet of fresh branches, berries, and fall blooms. Show it all off in an amber, organic-shaped vase. Bring in a beautiful olive wood serving bowl for sliced bread. Create a quick cider bar, displayed on an oversized serving board. Dot the mantel with gourds and greenery, and pile pumpkins into an antique French oyster basket, layered with star lights.

Chanterelle Mushroom and Leek Pie in Pâte Brisée Crust

This pretty little pie is a perfect light meal on a misty fall night or as a mouthwatering Thanksgiving side dish. It’s savory and a bit sweet, with a little heat, thanks to the smoky-sweet mustard and Fresno Chili pepper in the filling and the vanilla bean sugar in the homemade, buttery pie crust.

FILLING 

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 2 leeks, well-washed, trimmed then sliced
  • 1 pound chanterelle mushrooms (reserve a few torn pieces for later and clean, bottoms slightly trimmed and torn into bite-size pieces)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh Fresno chili pepper, chopped
  • 3 sage leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sweet and smoky mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon truffle salt
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 cup truffle broth
  • ½ teaspoon Pernod Paris
  • 6 ounces chestnuts, precooked, peeled, and rough chopped
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter (plus an additional tablespoon for topping the filling)
  • ½ cup grated Gruyere cheese

Method 

Generously coat a large stovetop pan with olive oil. Add all of the ingredients up to the Pernod, and sauté until the mushrooms are almost tender. Add the chopped chestnuts and stir until heated. Next, add the flour and butter and stir until the mixture thickens. Pull pan from the heat and cool. Drape the bottom dough round into the pie dish. (See recipe.) Spoon in filling. Dot filling with another tablespoon of butter pieces. Top dish with second dough round. Trim and seal the edges and prick the top several times with a fork. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 25 to 30 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling.


PÂTE BRISÉE PIE DOUGH

Ingredients

  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup vanilla sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • Zest of ½ an orange
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • ¼ to ½ cup ice water
  • 1 egg, beaten (for brushing)

Method 

Place all of the ingredients, minus the ice water and egg, into a food processor. Pulse until just combined. With the machine running, add a little water at a time until the dough forms a ball. Divide the dough ball in half and pat it into two disks. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface and gently press into a pie dish. Top filling with second dough round. Crimp the edges and brush with a beaten egg wash.

Roasted Beet and Mushroom Brie Salad Platter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Ingredients 

  • 2 each of yellow and red beets, scrubbed, peeled, ends trimmed then halved and cut into 4 wedges per half
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • 2 wedges mushroom Brie
  • Handful of mixed greens
  • ½ cup hazelnuts, shelled
  • Basil pesto (see recipe below)
  • Orange-infused olive oil
  • Zest of ½ a small orange
  • Pepper

Method 

Place the yellow and red beets in separate foil pouches to preserve the color. Drizzle the beets lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt before sealing foil. Roast beets at 375 degrees for approximately 30 to 40 minutes, until the beets are tender. Check the pouches after 20 minutes, and adjust temperature and time accordingly. Cool beets. Arrange the beets and Brie wedges on a platter. Layer in mixed greens. Scatter the toasted, crushed hazelnuts. (See recipe for hazelnuts and pesto.)

Drizzle on the basil pesto and orange olive oil. Zest half the orange over the platter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve with sliced bread.


ROASTED HAZELNUTS 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place shelled nuts in a single layer in an ovenproof pan and toast for approximately 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Place the roasted nuts on a clean towel and rub lightly, releasing the skins.


BASIL PESTO 

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • ¼ cup toasted pecans
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil

Method 

  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • ¼ cup toasted pecans
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil

Roasted beets are at the root of this ravishing fall salad. Help yourself to hunks of creamy mushroom Brie and toasty hazelnuts, sprinkled with mixed greens and finished with homemade basil pesto and notes of orange.

Sautéed Shrooms with Parsley and Red Pepper Flakes

Post-mushroom hunting, my grandmother would always make us this earthy and yummy dish. It’s a deliciously quick, fall appetizer or first course. So good heaped atop a slab of fresh bread.

TIP: Roll leftovers into scrambled eggs in the morning.

Ingredients 

  • Olive oil
  • Chanterelle mushrooms
  • Fresh parsley
  • Red chili pepper flakes
  • White wine
  • Salt and pepper

Mushroom Cleaning

Wipe each mushroom with a damp cloth, run quickly under water, pat dry, trim ends, and tear into strips.

Method

Coat a skillet with good olive oil. Sauté the torn mushrooms, along with a generous sprinkle of freshly chopped parsley, and a smattering of dried red pepper flakes. Add a splash of white wine to the pan, and stir until the mushrooms are tender and begin to caramelize. Salt and pepper to taste, top with additional chopped parsley, and serve with sliced bread.

Fresh Fall Apple Cider with Applejack Brandy

Quench your autumn thirst with chilled fall cider and a splash of Applejack Brandy, served in gleaming hammered copper mugs and garnished with sliced apple, a sprig of fresh mint, and cinnamon stir sticks.

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