Thursday, July 25, 2013

Wild "Milky-Cap" & Chanterelle Mushroom Bisque

Bisque, laden with heavy cream, wine, butter and starch, isn't exactly a healthy meal. As such, people tend to save them for special occasions. To a forager, this might mean you wait to celebrate a large haul of choice mushrooms, like morels, porcini, or chanterelles. But I disagree! An event like that is a celebration enough, you don't need a rich soup to make it better. I prefer to use a bisque like this on the kind of haul I had this weekend--a haul of "meh" mushrooms: edible, but hardly choice, and not a whole lot of them. Your basic B grade mushrooms.

While out blueberry picking, I found amount of "meh" mushrooms. One small bolete (not one of the spectacular ones), a few chantrelles that were pretty dried out (from the heat and lack of rain we've been having), and a number of lactarius, or "milky-cap" mushrooms, mostly Lactarius voluminous, and one small Lactarius corrugis. All told, about 2 cups of wild mushrooms, once chopped.

The genus Lactarius, often called "milky-cap" or "milk-cap" mushrooms are a fairly safe group for a novice to experiment with. The genus as a whole is pretty easy to ID (they have attached gills, that may run slightly down the stem, and breaking these gills will release a "milky" liquid, called latex). Once you have confirmed that you have a Lactarius in North America, it won't kill you (provided you are a healthy adult), though there are many that will make you sick.

Of course I forgot to get pics in the wild. . . 

Lactarius voluminous and corrugis are not the easiest Lactarius to ID, but they aren't especially difficult either. I highly recommend Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America by Fischer. (I get nothing from this recommendation, I just really think the book is first-rate). Fischer himself rates these mushrooms highly, but you should know that that opinion is hotly debated among foragers--many of whom won't eat Lactarius at all. I agree with Fischer, I think voluminous and corrugis have a nice, strong, mushroomy flavor and a decently meaty texture. My husband, on the other hand, will eat them, but would forgo the meal if it meant he had to harvest them himself. Both mushrooms (especially voluminous) have a dead fish/urine smell, and the latex of both will stain everything (including your fingernails), brown. Which means now I have to paint my nails.

Anyway, back to the bisque. I like a meal like this to make the most of an uninspired batch of mushrooms. Chanterelles are great, but there isn't a whole lot you can do with 3 dried-out ones. As I said above, I like these milk-caps, but the large one was old and a bit dried out, one was damaged and needed a heavy trim, and, all-in-all there weren't a whole lot of them. As for the Bolete, it was barely a mouthful.

But let's face it: everything tastes better in butter & heavy cream. And cooking this way reconstituted the chanterelles. Mixing everything in a soup also allowed me to "fill-out" the wild mushrooms with store-bought crimini mushrooms. Of course, if you don't forage, or don't forage for mushrooms, you can easily make this bisque using all store-bought mushrooms.

Wild "Milky-Cap" & Chanterelle Mushroom Bisque 

Serves 3-4 as a main course, 6-8 as a starter

3 cups of chopped wild and/or store-bought mushrooms
    (recommended: chanterelles, boletes, "milky-caps", polypores, crimini, portabello, shitake)
2/3 cup of shallot, thinly sliced (about 1 large shallot)
1 medium potato, diced -- and I mean diced
2 medium cloves of garlic, roughly chopped or sliced
1/2 cup of white wine, optional (but if not using, increase the cream to 1 cup)
4 cups vegetable, mushroom, or chicken stock (homemade or quality store-bought)
3/4 cups of heavy cream
4 tbs flour
4 tbs butter
bay leaf
1 tsp dried thyme
salt & freshly ground black pepper
fresh bread for serving, optional
  1. In a heavy-bottomed stock pot, heat 2tbs of butter over medium heat. Once melted, add the shallot and garlic. Cook until softened, about 2 minutes. 
  2. Add in the mushrooms, potato and 1tbs butter. Cook until mushrooms release their liquid, and the liquid reduces by about half. About 5-7 minutes. 
  3. Push the solids to one side of the pan. Add the final 1tbs of butter to the mushroom liquid and melt. Stir in the flour, till smooth. Then stir everything in the pan with the flour/butter paste. 
  4. Add the wine, and give everything a good mix, making sure nothing is stuck to the bottom, or the sides. 
  5. Add the stock, bay leaf, thyme and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 15-20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. 
  6. Working in batches, transfer your soup to a food processor or blender. You can also use an immersion blender. Process everything until smooth. (Note: it won't get completely smooth in a food processor.)
  7. Return to the stock pot and add in the heavy cream. Over medium-high heat, heat the soup through, but don't bring it to a boil. Taste, and add additional salt and black pepper if needed. Sever immediately with fresh bread. 

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