We’re fortunate to live in a place with an abundance of wild mushrooms. Many people make a living around these parts picking and selling gourmet wild mushrooms such as Matsutake or Pine mushrooms and Chanterelle. I’ve been learning about foraging for mushrooms for a few years now. There’s a lot to know, you certainly don’t want to take chances when it comes to mushroom identification. That being said, I know a lot of people are afraid of picking mushrooms, fear not! There are a multitude of great reference books, online forums, and most areas have local experts who can help you to learn your regions edible mushrooms. There are few things I enjoy more than finding delicious wild mushrooms in their natural habitat, it’s like finding gold!
Matsutake and Pine mushroom are terms often used interchangeably, but in actuality they aren’t the same mushroom, although the taste and appearance are very similar. Matsutake mushrooms grow in Japan and Korea, although very rare. Here in the Pacific Northwest, what we sometimes refer to as Matsutake, are actually Pine mushrooms and they are different, though commercially picked Pine mushrooms are mainly sent to Japan. Some say a perfect specimen can cost up to 100$, for one mushroom! Around here they still fetch a handsome price of about 22$/lb.
Hsiao-Ching Chou wrote, “The matsutake resembles the truffle, which lends its perfume to any preparation it encounters. A broth with several slices of a pine mushroom would be served in a lidded bowl or pot, for example, so that the scent of earthy pine with a tinge of cinnamon swirls within the container until it is finally released.”
“These edible mushrooms are prized in Japan, both for their flavor and meaning. To this day they’re still given as important gifts, meant to symbolize fertility and happiness One of the earliest records of Japanese matsutake is a 759 A.D. poem celebrating its virtues. ” This proved true when I gifted some Japanese friends with a bag of pines. The acclamation I received was beyond my expectations. They took big whiffs of the mushroom filled bag, their faces beaming with the smile of a mycophile. One last thing- the aroma of the of the matsutake is absolutely incomparable to any other mushroom. They are potent and unmistakable, once you’ve smelled one you will not forget. David Arora, author of Mushrooms Demystified (the BEST North American guide to wild mushrooms), describes the smell of a matsutake as a combination of wet socks and red hots. It’s a cinnamon, pine, wet forest soil smell that is just absolutely narcotic in my humble opinion. Cooking with such an ingredient is a dream, every few minutes I stop and just smell, breathing in the forests underground essence, it’s truly intangible.
We harvested quite the bounty, and let me tell you I have been noshing on mushrooms all week long. Thou shall not waste! I’ve cooked with pine mushrooms in many different ways. I try to keep it simple, this recipe is one of my favourites, the broth is infused with pine mushroom essence and a touch of cream. The crispy shallots and sage offer a robust combination of tastes on top of the creamy mushroom sauce. Spaguetti squash is so lovely this time of year and keeps things light but regular pasta is delicious as well.
- 1 medium sized spaguetti squash, cut in half, seeds removed
- drizzle of olive oil
- 3-4 medium sized pine mushrooms- alternately you could use your favourite mushroom, thinly sliced
- 2 Tbs butter or ghee
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- 20 sage leaves
- 1 C chicken stock
- ⅓ C heavy cream or coconut cream
- 1 Tbs tapioca starch
- fresh cracked pepper and salt to taste
- Preheat oven to 400F
- Place squash open side up on a baking sheet with a drizzle of olive oil. Bake for 1 hour.
- In a skillet or frying pan melt 1 Tbs butter and add a touch of olive oil, get it nice and hot and bubbling and then add the shallots and sage leaves, turn the heat down a bit and let them get nice and golden brown before stirring. About 10 minutes.
- In a separate saucepan add another Tbs of butter and let it get nice and hot, add the mushrooms and cover for 2 minutes.
- Add the chicken stock and let the mushrooms simmer for 5 minutes.
- Mix the cold cream with tapioca starch and add to the mushrooms. If you're using coconut cream, mix the tapioca with 1 Tbs of cold water and add to the mushrooms.
- Add a generous amount of fresh cracked pepper and sea salt.
- Remove the insides of the spaghetti squash with a fork, cover with the mushroom sauce and top with crispy shallots and sage.
Check out Fat Tuesday a collection of amazing links to recipes and articles, I’m submitting this recipe over there too!
I’m totally open to answering any and all wild mushroom questions you may have. Happy foraging!