My father was a mycophile. Chances are your father may have been one as well or perhaps even your grandmother. In my Slavic family mushrooms played a starring role in many holiday meals, especially on Christmas Eve when my grandmother made “white borscht” with oats and mushrooms. I don’t remember much about mushroom hunting with my dad, but I do remember how he was extremely careful to show me which mushrooms were safe to eat and which ones we shouldn’t touch.
These days I have a few friends who still forage for mushrooms but it truly is a lost art. Some groups, such as the Connecticut Valley Mycological Society, are dedicated to teaching about wild mushrooms. And even closer, on this Saturday, October 12th the Cornwall Conservation Trust will host a morning Walking with Naturalists – Foraging Fall Mushrooms.
I enjoy all types of mushrooms but never forage my own, I prefer to safely purchase them at the market or, for a special treat, I buy more exotic mushrooms from Mohawk Mountain Mushrooms based in Goshen CT. This week we had a giant “lion’s mane mushroom” simply sautéed with a little olive oil and garlic.
Sautéed mushrooms are a side dish on the menu of steakhouses across the US. A classic and easy way to prepare sautéed mushrooms is with a sherry sauce. For this recipe, don’t use “cooking sherry” which has an off-taste and often contains additives. A bottle of dry sherry can be purchased for a moderate price at most liquor shops and many grocery stores. I like to use a classic Amontillado Sherry (as in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado”). Save any extra to make sherried chicken livers or to serve slightly chilled as an aperitif.
Although many recipes for sherried mushroom use cream as a thickener, I prefer to let the flavor of the mushrooms shine by thickening my sauce with a little cornstarch and water. Note that sautéed mushrooms will reduce a lot while they are cooking so don’t be concerned if they are heaped in the pan when you begin. I prefer to use a cast iron pan but any heavy skillet that retains its heat should work well.
1 pound fresh “baby bella” or white button mushrooms, sliced
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup dry sherry
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons water
Salt and pepper, to taste
Minced parsley, for serving
Place 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a cast iron pan and warm the pan over medium-high heat until the oil is shimmering.
Place the mushrooms in the pan and give them a quick stir to coat them with the oil.
Do not continue to stir the mushrooms. Let them quietly sear and turn golden brown. The mushrooms will release a lot of juice into the pan, which will then evaporate. When the mushrooms have turned golden brown, add another tablespoon of olive oil and the garlic and stir the mushrooms to make sure they evenly brown.
When the mushrooms have caramelized and softened, turn down the heat to low and add the sherry, stirring well.
In a little bowl, mix the cornstarch and water, and pour this slurry onto the mushrooms, constantly stirring. This will thicken the sauce and give a beautiful sheen to your sautéed mushrooms. If the sauce seems a bit too thick, add a little more water or sherry and stir well.
Add a little salt and pepper to taste and top with some minced parsley. Serve immediately.