Blue Mushroom Summer

Sorry Elvis

We’re having a mushroom summer this year, with endless rainfall–sorry Oregon. As climate scientists quite accurately predicted, extremes have just become more extreme, as the years pass. A few years back we had the longest drought in state history, which was over two months with zero rainfall. Last month we had right at a foot of rain.

At any rate, in the space of less a hundred square feet, I found three species of Lactarius. This blue one is the most obvious, Lactarius indigo. We usually have one every couple of years, but this year there is a cluster of six. Next to these is Lacterious deliciosus. Both are said to be right tasty. The spoiler is a huge colony of Lacterius chrysorheus, which is quite poisonous. My Falcon guide to mushrooms, written by two Virginians, naturally, says it has Type 8 toxins, which sounds like next level bad.

As much as I would like to have a big plate of the first two, I have not held up my end of a deal struck with Melanie Jane, in that I not eat any wild mushrooms until I get a certificate in Mycology. Rumor has it that there is one mycologist in Birmingham. I admittedly am somewhat attached to my liver, as long as it functions.

Grillades with Mushroom Brown Sauce

Accidentally Making Great Food

If you do the right thing, Karma will treat you right. MJ and I have given away so many eggs that we are getting free food in return. Long live bartering.

Case in point was the cooler full of locally grown beef that one brother-in-law gave us, and the cow was grown by yet another brother-in-law. In the pile of meat were a couple of packs of cube steak, something I had never eaten before, and usually associated with greasy spoon diners. Then I read on the interwebs that good quality cube steak is really round steak that has been pounded flat for tenderizing. This was of the best quality, and I immediately thought: Grillades.

Turning round steak into a Grillade is the classic Southern way of turning inexpensive meat into a thing a beauty, and is sometimes referred to as fried meat a la Creole. I adapted the recipe for Grillades with Gravy from the latest reprint of the Picayune’s Creole Cook Book, and the result was unbelievably good.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon Bacon Fat (Grandmother Lilian’s trick)

1/2 Onion, chopped

1 clove Garlic, diced

1 tablespoon Flour

4 inch squares of pounded Round Steak, seasoned highly with Salt and Pepper

6 large Mushrooms, sliced, and sauteed in Bacon Fat, Lard, Butter, or Oil

Water

The recipe in the cook book uses tomatoes instead of mushrooms, but we won’t have good fresh tomatoes here for a while, and I had bunches of shrooms. Begin by cooking the onion in the bacon fat for about a minute. When they begin to soften, add the garlic. Cook until you can smell the garlic but DO NOT burn it.

Add the flour, and begin the basis for a brown roux, aka a gravy. Stir regularly, as a roux is also known as “Creole Napalm.” When you get to a brown color to your liking, add the Grillades to the top of the roux, along with the mushrooms. Add the water and stir. Mine looked like this.

Simmer Time!

That’s my favorite heavy cast iron skillet. Close it about 7/8 of the way with an equally heavy cast iron lid. Stir regularly, because even with the stove set at the lowest setting, this sauce will stick and burn, and the dish is ruined. Add more water when the gravy begins to thicken excessively. Simmer a minimum of thirty minutes, though we just cook ours until it is completely tender. This cooked forty or forty five minutes.

Serve over Louisiana, or any other good, rice, and garnish with chopped parsley, unless you enjoy food that is just really brown. That was served on one of Grandmother Lilian’s Tennessee made plates. Leftovers made the best steak and biscuit with gravy, the next morning, in history.

Grillades. It’s what’s for supper.

Blue Mushroom Salad, Anyone?

Just not Me

This beauty popped up just a few feet from our house, and I have made a very tenuous identification. When I first saw these a few years back, I matched it with a picture and description in my field guide to be Lactarius rubrilacteus. This one looks even closer to the photo than the first ones did.

These are apparently quite tasty, as they are closely related to Lactarius deliciosus. Alas, I will never know or not, unless a professional mycologist shows up at the door with a skillet and some olive oil. They will still have to take the first bite.

Deconstructed Turkey

Easter Turkey?

Sometimes you have to do what you have to do. In this case, it was Easter Turkey, instead of Easter Ham. I can’t say that I have any reason to complain about the result.

The backstory: I wasn’t about to drive to the BHAM to buy a quality ham, so we fished out a 20+ pound turkey from our freezer, a Christmas gift from MJ’s employer. It was time to go all Julia Child and Jacques Pepin on this bird.

Like Beatrix Kiddo in Kill Bill, I needed Japanese steel for this job. There are five cuts necessary for this dish, and I pulled out MJ’s massive Japanese cleaver. Cutting off the wing tips, and throwing them into the stock pot, are the two easy ones. Then the thighs/legs come off in one piece each. Finally, the back is removed, and it joins the wing tips in the stock pot. I forgot that the giblets get boiled. Those are for giblet gravy.

Brine the Turkey parts overnight in a standard salty brine, and make the stock and a large skillet full of cornbread to use as the base for the dressing. My cornbread has no flour in it, because I use the fine ground McEwen and Sons organic cornmeal. Other wise, it’s a typical cornbread. The next day, it’s time to reconstruct the bird.

Ready for the Oven

The bird rests on a big pile of Cornbread Dressing, which consists of a regular, crumbled cornbread, egg, turkey stock, cooked celery and onion dressing, with two important additions. A. D. Livingston says include a cup of croutons for some crunch, and my addition is a good hand full of reconstituted dried porcini mushrooms, which are chopped and added after soaking, along with some of the porcini water, to add a little mushroom flavor to the dressing.

Put the bird back together in a manner resembling how it looked before it was dismembered. We also baste ours regularly with melted butter while it cooks, in a 375 degree F oven. That dark brown color is a good indictor of the fowl being cooked through. That big French roasting pan is quite an improvement over the gigantic cast iron skillet we formerly used. All the meaty part of a twenty pound turkey in a ten pound skillet will strain the sturdiest oven rack.

So thanks to Julia and Jacques for forever ending the stuffing of a Turkey cavity. These brined birds stay juicy and tender, and the legs can be removed early, if they cook faster than the breast does. Put them back in to re-warm just before the cooking is finished, and you once again have a reconstructed Deconstructed Turkey.

Pickled Spiced Mushrooms

Let the Pickle Begin

This recipe is based on one in the superb book Preserving Italy, by Domenica Marchetti. I tasted one of these after I let them pickle for a day, and I may forsake my usual jar of emergency canned mushrooms for these. There could hardly be anything easier to make. Here’s my take on the project.

Ingredients

1 pound button Mushrooms

1 cup apple cider Vinegar

1/2 cup wine Vinegar

3/4 cup apple Wine, or any white Wine

1/4 cup peanut Oil

1 tablespoon Himalayan Pink Salt

1/2 teaspoon whole Peppercorns

3 whole Cloves

Small piece of a Cinnamon Stick

1 bay Leaf

Good Olive Oil

I didn’t have and/or disliked some of the ingredients in the original, and I didn’t want to wait for my personal corporate overlord Jeff Bezos to have a tiny overpriced bottle of white wine vinegar hand delivered to me in two cardboard boxes, and wrapped in a yard of bubble wrap, so I went full on Italian, and just used what I had, and what I like. The process is straight forward.

Clean the mushrooms, cut off the stems, and cut them into quarters (you can cut the small ones in half). While doing this, bring all the other ingredients to a boil, and remember the definition of non-reactive. Add the mushrooms after the boil starts, and cook for five minutes, and then let them rest. I left mine overnight, as I was up to my butt in alligators (figuratively), and had a dozen other things to do.

Get rid of the bay leaf, and put the final pickle in half pint jars, as a pound made three half pints for me. Pour a little olive oil in each jar after it is packed, which is an Italian trick that I was unaware of, but one which makes perfect sense. Process the fellows in a hot water bath for fifteen minutes.

Bath Time

That’s just a pressure canner with jars filled over the lids with water. Everyone should have one, but for some reason we own two, which is a long story.

Mine all sealed perfectly, and now get to age gracefully for a couple of weeks. After that, they are to be devoured.