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More mushroom love!

Chantal Martineau from (one of our favorite sites) Food Republic, interviewed Ariane during the wild mushroom harvest dinner at North Square Restaurant. Here’s what she learned…

 

In Season Right Now: Wild Mushrooms

Nov 29, 2011 9:01 am

Fungi and games with D’Artagnan’s Ariane Daguin

 

Hedgehog, fried chicken, cauliflower, canary, lobster. An odd menu, right? Well, not so weird, it turns out: these are all wild mushrooms available through D’Artagnan, the foie gras and truffle specialist and purveyor of other fine meats and mushrooms to restaurants around the country.

D’Artagnan’s founder, Ariane Daguin, is something of a mushroom expert. She peels off their Latin names the way other people call out their favorite bands. Over a recent fungus-laced meal, that began with wild mushroom soup and ended with white truffle ice cream, she discussed her job as fungus hunter.

Why are November and December such big months for mushrooms?
In the Northern hemisphere, it’s the end of the fall and in the Southern hemisphere, it’s spring. So both seasons are good times for mushrooms. What’s particularly exciting in the Northern hemisphere, especially at the end of November, is that the truffles are coming in.

How did truffles get to be so prized?
There are recipes from Escoffier where he is using 10 kilos of truffles and sometimes not even to eat—just as a decoration around the dish. So, there was a time when truffles were really plentiful. I wouldn’t say it was like potatoes, but there were more. Now, as cities get larger and the size of the woods diminishes, there are less truffles.

At D’Artagnan, how do you find what mushrooms are in season?
We have a purchasing team that is looking at the whole world as a sourcing possibility. For example, I always thought that morels came at the start of spring (because I was raised in France). But the more east you go — Russia, Turkey — the earlier they come. And we do that with every wild mushroom. Going back to truffles, there used to be none in the Southern hemisphere. Now, there are growers in Australia. So, we can have black winter truffles in the middle of the summer.

Do mushrooms have terroir, as in taste different depending on where they’re from? Read more

Mushroom Mania!

vibrant bluefoot mushrooms, like otherworldly delights
vibrant bluefoot mushrooms, like otherworldly delights

There are hundreds of products that come in and out of D’Artagnan that the general public never gets the chance to see. Our catalogue of chef-only items is expansive and runs the gamut, from specialty game like ostrich and goat to large primal cuts of beef, exotic eggs and whole animals, like 300 lb Yorkshire pigs. Some of the most exciting gastro-gems come out of the mushroom department.

Our mushroom expert, Frank (who we affectionately refer to as Frank the Forager) sources hard-to-find fungi from all over the globe. Chefs usually snatch up mushrooms and truffles as soon as they come in but today we got lucky and with Frank’s assistance were able to take some photos before they flew out the door. Click through the slideshow below for a peek (the 4 arrows in the  bottom right corner expand the size).

Since we now all have mushrooms-on-the-brain, here’s an idea for easy holiday hors d’oeuvre that can be made in stages ahead of time.

earthy, creamy, buttery and crisp. perfect for the holidays.

Wild Mushroom Tartelettes

This is more of an instruction than a formal recipe. Feel free to make substitutions.

You will need: A few pounds of assorted wild mushrooms (we used trumpet royal, maitake and honshimeji), 1 package of good quality, store-bought puff pastry (like Dufour), 1 shallot, butter, fresh thyme, salt & pepper, mascarpone cheese, and a hunk of your favorite brie.

1.   Thaw puff pastry, unfold and smooth out. Using a 1.5 inch biscuit cutter, cut several rounds and place on a silpat or parchment lined baking sheet. Using a 1/2 inch biscuit cutter or pastry tip, make an impression in the center of each round without cutting all the way through. Chill. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake the chilled shells for about 15-20 minutes or until puffed and golden. Remove and set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, remove the centers of each shell using the tip of a paring knife if needed. These shells can be made a day ahead – once completely cooled, store in an air-tight container. (This canape can also be made with store-bought shells, but the freshly baked versions always taste better.)

2. Finely chop all mushrooms. Finely chop shallot. Heat a few tablespoons of butter in a large skillet. Add shallot and sweat. Add mushrooms, stirring to coat with butter. Season with salt and pepper. The mushrooms will expel some water after they’ve been salted. Add chopped thyme leaves. You want to keep cooking the mushrooms, stirring often, until they’re golden and dry. Stir in about a tablespoon of mascarpone, mixing until melted and evenly coating mushrooms. Remove from heat and set aside.

3. Slice brie into small squares, about 1/2″x1/2″x1/4″. Spoon mushroom mixture into tart cups and set on a sheet pan. Place a square of brie on top of each tart, place in a warm oven until just soft. Serve immediately.

Note: All steps can be done ahead of time up to assembly – even a few days in advance. Assembly can be done a few hours ahead. Warm just before ready to serve.

We must confess, this mushroom madness was inspired by the following 2 photographs of Ariane and her daughter Alix.

Alix in Wonderland  &  Ariane among the Amanitas

These giant Amanitas are part of the Carsten Höller: Experience currently on exhibit at New York City’s New Museum. The showing runs through mid-January, check it out if you’re in town!

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