The cool wet weather of autumn has arrived. With it comes beautiful foliage and earthy mushrooms. I love the variety of fall mushrooms – chanterelles, hen of the woods, porcini -- each with a different texture and flavor. One of the reasons these mushrooms are so special is that they cannot be cultivated like the ubiquitous shiitake and portobellos.
Foraging for mushrooms can be a dicey proposition. Not all mushrooms are edible, and many prized varieties, like the porcini, have a bitter or poisonous sibling. Local mycology groups offer hikes to forage for mushrooms with guides that help with identification. Unless I'm out with my friend Brett, I leave the foraging to the experts and purchase mushrooms at the market. As much as I love growing my own vegetables, fishing for seafood and hunting for meat, I'm a ninny when it comes to mushrooms.
My favorite meal to ring in fall is roast chicken with roast parsnips and carrots with creamed mushrooms on top. The colors are drab, but the mushrooms make the dish sing.
Cognac Scented Mushrooms
1 tbs. butter
1 1/2 lb. mushrooms, assorted, sliced or diced
2 tbs. chopped shallots
1 tbs. sliced garlic
2 tbs. cognac
1 cup cream
2 tsp. whole grain mustard
1/2 bunch thyme
Heat a large skillet over a medium-high heat and add butter. Sauté mushroom, garlic and shallots without stirring for 5 minutes, or until mushrooms start to caramelize. Add cognac, and reduce before adding the cream and 2 tsp. chopped thyme. Reduce cream by half. Stir in mustard. Season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice.