As a child, I remember my grandfather returning home with a sack of mushrooms he foraged from a nearby wooded area. My grandmother would take the harvest and cook it along with a silver coin; legend had it that if the coin turned black, the mushrooms were poisonous. Now please don’t try this at home, although this method is widely utilized across cultures as a litmus test for determining the toxicity of wild mushrooms, there is no scientific evidence to support the claim. Reflecting back, it seems as though my grandparents must have known something about selecting forest funghi, as none of us were ever rushed to the emergency room after meal.In recent weeks, the farmer’s markets are brimming with the bounty of the fall harvest. If you are fortunate enough to have a mushroom purveyor at your local farmer’s market, you may have noticed that the assortment is incredible. I have come to rely on the expertise of the local farmers in learning about their produce, the distinct flavors, and the best methods of preparation. The mushrooms sold by these vendors are at the peak of freshness and generally at a far better price than the high-end supermarkets. Bay Area farmers package the mushrooms in a brown paper bag; if you are not planning on using them that day I suggest folding down the sides of the paper bag to the level of the mushrooms, covering the top of the mushrooms with a dry paper towel and placing them in a corner of your refrigerator until used within the next day or two.
Cleaning mushrooms only requires a gentle wipe with either a soft clean cloth or paper towel. If you must, dampen the cloth or towel with some fresh water. Trim the stem and depending upon the recipe, either keep whole or cut to the desired size. When using Shitake mushrooms, the stem is entirely too tough to eat, so please remove and retain it for a stock or sauce.
Funghi Selvatici al Cartoccio is an ideal contorni or side dish for Thanksgiving along with being an excellent sauce for pasta as used in the recipe Pasta con Funghi di Bosco. It is simple to prepare in advance, lends itself to easy clean up, and can be placed into the oven after you have removed the holiday bird. I generally use a mixture of mushrooms depending upon what is available; this recipe features Maitake, Pioppini, Shitake and Chantrelle mushrooms. Yes, even at the farmer’s market these varieties can be rather costly so I sometimes base my dish on less expensive selections using button or Portabello mushrooms with a few Shitake to add a woodsy flavor to the finished dish.
Using foil as a base for the parchment makes closing up the package of earthen delights much simpler. The moisture from the funghi creates a deep flavorful broth which is heightened by a squeeze of fresh lemon, olive oil and sliced garlic. Serve directly from the roasting pan with the parchment lined foil rolled back to expose the jewels within. If using the mushrooms as a pasta sauce, simply follow the instructions and prepare 1 pound of whole wheat spaghetti, tagliatelle, or fettuccine to the al dente stage, top with the finished mushroom dish for Pasta con Funghi di Bosco.
- 2 pounds of assorted mushrooms of your choice - this recipe included Maitake, Pioppini, Shitake and Chantrelle
- 3 large cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
- ½ of a large lemon, seeds removed
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup freshly chopped Italian parsley leaves
- Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling after cooking
- Preheat the oven to 450ºF.
- Prepare the mushrooms by gently wiping each with a paper towel or soft cloth to remove any visible soil. Trim the base of the stem and cut into half depending upon size, you do not want to make the pieces too small. Generally, I try to approximate the same size for all of the pieces to facilitate even cooking.
- Line a roasting pan, large enough to accommodate the mushrooms with a piece of aluminum foil which should be twice the length of the pan. Cover the aluminum foil with two lengths of cooking parchment which have been folded together twice to create a wide liner for the foil.
- Place the cleaned and cut assorted mushrooms and sliced garlic over the parchment in the roasting pan. Season liberally with the sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle the olive oil over the mushrooms and delicately stir with a wooden spoon to be sure that they are evenly seasoned. Squeeze the lemon half over the mixture.
- Fold the parchment paper over onto itself to completely enclose the mushrooms. Take the aluminum foil and fold that over the parchment package to completely enclose it.
- Place in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, refrain from opening the oven.
- Remove and allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Carefully open the foil and parchment, this can be dangerous as the package will release hot steam. Gather the edges of the foil and parchment and pull back to create a self contained serving bowl within the roasting pan.
- Garnish with the freshly chopped Italian parsley leaves and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil if you like.