In author Jabari Asim's fictionalized St. Louis -- the 'Gateway City' first introduced in his short story collection 'A Taste of Honey' –- characters come to grips with the fallout of the civil rights era in surprising ways. We talk with Asim about the fictional world he created and examine the realities of how we deal with race in America today.
After a soggy September, wild mushrooms are sprouting in almost every field, forest patch and lawn across our region. Some of these back-yard varieties can serve as a cornerstone for earthy, seasonal dishes. But amateur pickers beware: four people have been hospitalized in the past two weeks after eating poisonous mushrooms in their backyards.
- Jack Czarnecki Author, "A Cook's Book of Mushrooms"; Owner, Oregon Truffle Oil
- Raymond LaSala President, Mycological Association of Washington
- Ris Lacoste Owner and chef, Ris restaurant DC
RIS Pot Pie
(Courtesy of Ris Lacoste)
In my humble opinion, one should never make pot pie without baking the crust along with the filling, always together, never as separate entities. And there should be plenty of light, flaky crust. At my house we would fight over my mother’s flaky pastry lining the bottom of the pyrex baking dish.
Make plenty of your favorite pie dough or buy 100% butter puff pastry, rolled to 1/6″ and cut to cover and/or encase individual ramekins or larger casseroles.
For the roux:
4 ounces butter
1 cup flour
For the filling:
Makes 3-4 quarts, 6-8 servings
8 ounces mushrooms, 1/4’d if large and roasted until golden seasoned with salt
1 cup pearl onions, peeled and roasted until golden seasoned with salt, pepper, fresh thyme and olive oil
2 Tablespoons butter
1 large onion, diced, about 2 cups
2 large stalks celery, large dice, about 1 cup
2 carrots, large dice or 1/4″ rounds, about 1 cup
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh sage
2 quarts chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 large potato, large dice, about 1 cup
Root vegetables that are available – parsnip, celery root or sweet potato or all of the above, large dice
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup frozen English peas
2 cups roasted chicken meat, or to taste
Roll out your pastry to suit your needs and keep covered in the refrigerator until ready to use.
1. Make the roux. Melt the butter in a heavy based sauce pan. Whisk in the flour stir constantly, spreading the paste over the bottom of the pan to lightly color and cook the flour, for about 5 minutes. Set aside in a warm place until ready to use.
Roast the mushrooms and pearl onions. Set aside when done until ready to use.
In a heavy based 2-gallon soup pot or dutch oven, melt the 2 Tablespoons of butter and add the diced onions, celery and carrots. Sprinkle with the chopped thyme and sage and cook until the onions are barely soft, stirring occasionally, just enough to release the aromatics from the vegetables, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Let simmer for another 5 minutes to meld the flavors and season the stock.
Add the potatoes and any additional root vegetables. Season lightly with salt and fresh cracked pepper. Bring just to a boil and add the peas, roasted mushrooms, roasted pearl onions and chicken meat. Bring back just to a boil again, keeping in mind that you have about 5 minutes to finish from this point before the potatoes are not overcooked.
Thicken with the roux to desired thickness, whisking in a bit at a time and dissolving each bit, not to leave lumps. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt, pepper and a dash of sherry vinegar for brightness. Remove from the heat.
Prepare your pastry to accommodate your vessel. Fill with the pot pie filling and cover with more pastry. Filling can be hot if put in the oven immediately or chilled and can be kept in the refrigerated until ready to use.
Cooking time will be in a 350 degree oven but will depend on size of pie and whether or not filling was hot or cold. Individual portions take 20 minutes or so. Larger casseroles may take up to or more than 1 hour.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5, at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. It's Food Wednesday. The good wild mushrooms, the ones you're supposed to eat, have colorful names like Hen-of-the-Woods and Shaggy Mane. The bad ones, the ones you're supposed to avoid at all cost, have names like Death Caps and Destroying Angels.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIIf you're not 100 percent sure which one is which, if you can't tell the difference between a morel and a chanterelle, you definitely shouldn't be picking and eating those exotic-looking mushrooms growing in your backyard. In the last two weeks, four people in the Washington area did just that and ended up in the emergency room.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIStill, you don't have to be an expert forager to appreciate the earthy, rich flavor of seasonal mushroom dishes. This hour, we're exploring the delicious, and sometimes dangerous, world of wild mushrooms and their cultivated cousins. Joining us in studio is Ris Lacoste, owner and chef of Ris Restaurant D.C., where she focuses on fresh, seasonal dishes and ingredients. Ris, good to see you again.
MS. RIS LACOSTEKojo, it's a pleasure to be here. Thank you.
NNAMDIAlso in studio with us is Raymond LaSala, president of the Mycological Association of Washington. Raymond, thank you for joining us.
MR. RAYMOND LASALAIt's a pleasure to be back with you, Kojo.
NNAMDIJoining us by telephone from Oregon is Jack Czarnecki, author of "A Cook's Book of Mushrooms," the owner of Oregon Truffle Oil. Jack, glad to have you join us.
MR. JACK CZARNECKIWell, thanks for having me. Hey, Ray. Great to hear from you, man.
LASALAHey. Yeah, hi, Jack.
NNAMDIGlad we could bring you all together again. 800-433 is the number to call. Do you forage for wild mushrooms in this area? Have the recent stories about mushroom poisonings given you pause? 800-433-8850. Or you can go to our website, kojoshow.org. Before I forget, Ray, tell us about the mushroom fear that's taking place.
LASALAWell, for people who want to learn more about wild mushrooms, this Sunday is going to provide a wonderful opportunity. The Mycological Association is having a mushroom fair up at the Brookside Gardens Visitor Center in Wheaton Regional Park from 12 noon to 5 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 2.
NNAMDIOver the last month, our entire region has been soaked to the core with rain, first from Hurricane Irene, then from a tropical storm, then from just plain old rain. If you go to a farmer's market, you'll find that just about every vegetable crop has been negatively affected by the deluge, but these are actually prime mushroom-growing conditions, aren't they, Ray, soggy weather?
LASALAOh, indeed, the rain brings them out, for sure.
NNAMDISoggy weather means more mushrooms. Jack, we are complaining about the soggy weather here. But you decided that the East Coast was too sunny for you, so you set off for Oregon, where they call it mushroom sunshine. Why is that?
CZARNECKIYeah, that's for sure. Well, like Ray said, the weather sure brings them up. And I look at my weather report every morning. I look at the rain back east, and I kind of cringe 'cause it's been dry back here. We got our first significant rain in a couple of months, just a few days ago. So we're getting really, really itchy. But you know what? At least it makes the winemakers happy.
NNAMDIOver the last two weeks, four people in the Washington area have been hospitalized after eating poisonous local mushrooms. When most of us are, oh, 3-, 4 years old, our parents tell us, don't eat the mushrooms or anything else that grows in the backyard. Obviously, some people don't follow that rule. Is there a baseline set of rules you recommend to people about wild mushrooms? First, you, Ray.
LASALAWell, I think the one that you just cited is a very good one, Kojo. If you don't know exactly what you have, you shouldn't eat it. You can pick it, look it -- look at it, take pictures of it, but, for heaven's sake, don't eat it unless you know what it is.
NNAMDIYou got any rules of your own, Jack?
CZARNECKIWell, I think, if you want to become serious about hunting wild mushrooms, just a two-step process. First, you read as much as you can about it, and that doesn't mean buying a lot of books. I would start with something like "Mushrooms Demystified" by David Arora or the field guide -- the Audubon field guide by Gary Lincoff and learn as much as you can.
CZARNECKIAnd then go to a local mycological association, like Ray's in Washington, and see how much of your reading knowledge you can actually put to use by seeing the real thing and talking to experts.
NNAMDI800-433-8850 is the number to call. You can also go to our website, kojoshow.org. Join the conversation there. Have the recent stories about mushroom poisoning given you pause? You can go to our website, kojoshow.org. Send email to email@example.com, or send us a tweet, @kojoshow. Ray, this is kind of like "CSI" for a mycologist.
NNAMDIWhen something like this happens and someone shows up in an emergency room, the doctors need to know exactly what mushroom was ingested. So they end up often calling someone like you. Tell us about how that process works.
LASALAWell, I guess, it was on Tuesday, the 13th of September, when I got an email from a fourth-year medical student at Georgetown University Hospital, which included several photographs, asking me if I could identify the mushrooms, well, in the photographs. Unfortunately, the photographs were terrible. The mushrooms were all old and rotten and mangled. I asked him for some additional photographs, which he provided the next day. They were still bad.
LASALAI told him what I really needed was fresh material. So, finally, Thursday afternoon, he called me and said, we have some good specimens. Would you, please, come in and look at them? Which I did. There were three different mushrooms in the collection. One was something called a Slippery Jack, which is edible, but you're not supposed to eat the cap cuticle 'cause it can give you diarrhea.
LASALAThe second one was something called the Blusher, Amanita rubescens, which is edible, but only if it's fully cooked. If you eat it raw, you could get sick from it. The third, though, was the Destroying Angel, Amanita bisporigera. I knew that was the bad boy. I pointed that out to him, and they took it from there. Apparently, they treated him with a European treatment called silibinin. It's a derivative of milk thistle.
NNAMDIThat's an intriguing name, Destroying Angel?
NNAMDIWhy the angel?
LASALA'Cause it destroys your liver and kidneys.
NNAMDIBut why call it an angel?
LASALABecause it's so beautiful. It's a beautiful, pearly white. It's tall and stately, very pretty mushroom.
NNAMDIGiven how dangerous and, certainly, how expensive wild mushrooms can be, I have to ask, do wild mushrooms taste different than cultivated mushrooms, Ris?
LACOSTEThey certainly do.
LACOSTEYeah, and it -- to me, it -- well, it makes a big difference. I learned how to eat mushrooms. My mother was not allowed to have mushrooms on the table when we were growing up 'cause the kids would revolt. We didn't like mushrooms. And it wasn't until I went to Paris that I really enjoyed eating mushrooms and love -- fell in love with mushrooms.
LACOSTEAnd I remember coming back to the States, and I said, you know, the mushrooms aren't as good here as they are in Paris. And it's just all the whole new love and just adoration for them. Sure, they do. I think that, you know, probably -- I don't know, Ray, you may know more -- but maybe 75 percent of the mushrooms that we eat are cultivated and are farm-raised.
LACOSTEAnd you get the great wild mushrooms -- only we, in restaurants, tend to get them from upper Northwest, you know, Pacific Northwest, where you are, Jack, because there's so -- it's such a plentiful number of them. Local foraging is not, you know, necessarily how we depend on our mushrooms. But I think that the process of farm raising does dilute the flavor.
LACOSTEYou know, we love that terroir, you know, grape growers and farmers and all of that. We want to, you know, taste the ground -- the earth in our food. So...
NNAMDIJack, how would you describe the difference between -- in taste between wild and cultivated mushrooms?
CZARNECKIOh, my gosh. Well, to begin with, cultivated mushrooms really aren't that bad. What people don't realize, there's a lot of wild mushrooms out there that are just as insipid and uninteresting as some of the common varieties. But, actually, I like a lot of the cultivated varieties, particularly shiitake. However, wild mushrooms, they're really good edibles. They're in a class by themselves.
CZARNECKIFirst time you had a morel or a properly cooked porcini, I mean, it's just an entirely different experience.
CZARNECKIIt's like not ever having had a mushroom. When we introduce people into our restaurant to mushrooms, a lot of them say, oh, I don't like mushrooms, until they've had wild mushrooms. There's a richness and earthiness about them. Ris mentioned terroir. It's certainly -- that's certainly the case. And they're far more complex than cultivated mushrooms.
NNAMDIRay, your take on the taste difference.
LASALAWell, it's kind of like the difference between apples and mangoes, for heaven's sake. I mean, you know, they're different things. The flavors happen to be different. And we mushroom pickers are selective. As Joe mentioned, there are some wild mushrooms that aren't all that great, but there are some that are truly wonderful.
NNAMDINow, on to the preparation of mushrooms, 800-433-8850. Do you have a killer homemade dish that brings out the best in mushrooms? Call us and share your tips and tricks, 800-433-8850. On the question of safety, here's Dina (sp?) in Great Falls, Va. Dina, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DINAHi. I've been a mushroomer for years and years on the West Coast and East Coast, a member of the national society. And all the mushrooming I've done, even if there's good one -- even if there's bad ones in a family that has good ones, I avoid those. I just go by families, and I just -- you know, they say there are bold mushrooms. There are old mushrooms. There are mushroom collectors. But there is no old bold mushroom collectors.
NNAMDIRay, what do you say to that?
LASALAYeah, well, that's a good general thing to bear in mind, indeed. You don't want to take chances when you're collecting and eating wild mushrooms.
NNAMDIThank you for your call, Dina.
NNAMDIHere is Bill in Reston, Va. Bill, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
BILLWell, just a little insert. I think that story about the old bold were originally applied to airplane pilots. But so the story goes, and this maybe was 20, 30 ago, there was a so-called expert chef here in D.C. who picked wild mushrooms and died from them. So, personally, I would never eat anything, unless it's grown in a barn on a mushroom farm.
CZARNECKIWell, you know, there are some mushroom hunters who like to fly high, too.
NNAMDIWell, two of the top chefs, it's my understanding, in Portland, Maine, ended up in the hospital this week apparently for the same reason. So there's company there. Bill, thank you for your call. And one more before we resume our conversation. Here's Keith in Harpers Ferry, W.Va. Hi, Keith.
KEITHGood morning, Kojo.
NNAMDII know you have a question. Go ahead, Keith.
KEITHI do. I do a lot of hiking up here in the mountain. And this time of the year, I see these giant puffballs growing, some of them almost the size of a basketball, and they're pearly white. And I've heard that they're good to eat if they're sliced and fried. And I was wondering what your experts had to say.
NNAMDIWhat do you know about that, Ray LaSala?
LASALAYeah, they're certainly edible, but they need to be rather firm when you pick them. You want them to thump like a volleyball when you tap on them. And they're rather bland. They kind of taste a little bit like tofu. But what I like to do with them is to slice them really thin into crepes and fry them just to soften them up, and then roll them around in some kind of filling.
NNAMDIThat works for you, Keith?
KEITHOh, sounds great.
NNAMDIThanks a lot for your call. Ris, you do not identify as a mushroom expert. But you do like to cook seasonal fresh dishes, and many of the flavor profiles we associate with mushrooms are very appropriate for fall and winter. What do you see when you look at a fresh maitake or chanterelle?
LACOSTEWell, I see the bottom of the floor of a great fall forest. And, you know, when you cook seasonally, you also take on the colors of seasonality. And so I love making pastas that have oranges and burnt reds and the great colors of mushrooms. Mushrooms are so beautiful. They create a bouquet on the plate.
LACOSTEAnd so when I look at those mushrooms and the beauty of mushrooms -- and that's why they're so appealing, I think, in this day and age. We're trying to tell people to cook from their backyards. We're telling them to grow their own produce. Everyone is -- you know, are out there, but just don't touch the mushrooms, I guess, is the message of today.
LACOSTEBut mushrooms are fall to me, as they are spring -- as morels are spring, mushrooms are fall. And they add to all the great colors of winter squash and all of that. And they meld so well. That earthiness melds so well with all of those flavors.
NNAMDIJack, when you're preparing mushrooms, you lean on something you call your holy trinity.
CZARNECKIYeah, absolutely. It's something I stumbled across years ago at our restaurant in Reading. When I was preparing some mushrooms, I wasn't really happy with just adding a little salt. So what I managed to come up with, it was a combination of -- you saute mushrooms with onions and a little butter, which is always a great combination.
CZARNECKIBut then I add some salt, some soy sauce and then just a little pinch of sugar, and that has the remarkable ability to bring out the flavor of the mushroom 'cause cooking with mushrooms is really all about letting the flavor speak for itself. And that particular seasoning combination, for me, works the most effectively.
NNAMDIWhat kind of mushroom preparations do you most associate with this time of year, at least on this side of the country, Ray?
CZARNECKIWell, you mentioned...
NNAMDIOh, first you, Jack.
CZARNECKIYou mentioned puffballs, which are great. I like to use sautéed puffballs and onions and butter. There I go again with that start. But then I add some cream and make a nice soup, but I finish it off with some crushed nori, which brings out the puffball flavor a little bit and gives it a bit of a -- an exotic flavor. But, generally speaking, I use a combination of salt, soy and a little bit of a tiny pinch of sugar with just about any mushroom. That helps it.
CZARNECKIOut here, of course, we've got something you don't have back there very much -- and that's just starting -- and that's matsutake, which is a marvelous, marvelous mushroom.
LASALAWell, I like doing an Italian preparation called funghi trifolati. It's actually very simple. It's just sautéed mushrooms cooked with garlic and parsley and olive oil, and it works well with, well, your store-bought button mushroom. But it works really well with meadow mushrooms, the field mushroom or pink bottom or the horse mushroom.
NNAMDIHere is Brooke in Sperryville, Va. Brooke, your turn.
BROOKEHey. I just -- I spent my childhood collecting mushrooms with my dad, and my very favorite thing, when I was a kid and still, was a Russian recipe that we used to make. We sauté top-up bacon and sauté it until it's crisp and then add -- take that out and add shallots and sauté those. And topping -- usually, we used boletus or chanterelles that we collected. And when they're just about done, add sour cream and serve it on toast. And it is (word?).
LACOSTEWow, that sounds good.
CZARNECKIVery Eastern European.
NNAMDIYou've got Ray here smacking his lips.
LASALAIt's a delicious dish. I've had it, but my sarcastic comment would be, well, yeah, you cook bacon and shallots and sour cream with anything, and it's going to taste good. But it does go very, very nicely with mushrooms.
CZARNECKIThat's great preparation for hen of the woods, too, maitake.
NNAMDIBrooke, thank you very much. We're going to take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation on autumn mushrooms, delicious, occasionally dangerous. 800-433-8850, or send as a tweet, @kojoshow. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIIt's a Food Wednesday conversation on autumn mushrooms with Ris Lacoste, owner and chef of Ris Restaurant, D.C. She focuses on fresh seasonal dishes and ingredients. Raymond LaSala is the president of the Mycological Association of Washington. And Jack Czarnecki is author of "A Cook's Book of Mushrooms" and the owner of Oregon Truffle Oil. He joins us by telephone from Oregon.
NNAMDIWe're taking your calls at 800-433-8850. Do you forage for wild mushrooms in this area? Call us, 800-433-8850. Ris, when you begin to sketch out a menu for the fall, what proteins and vegetables are you thinking about pairing with mushrooms?
LACOSTEWell, I think of duck 'cause I think of duck and pinot noir mushrooms, and they -- all that beautiful French burgundy red is so luscious with mushrooms 'cause it's so earthy itself. I think of -- I love -- my favorite combination, really, is -- really a good cherry caramelized onion and mushrooms and butternut squash and winter squash. So that is well all over that in some form or another.
LACOSTERight now, I have sweetbreads and mushrooms and pancetta and figs because I want to get those figs at their end-of-season figs and a delicious pasta, really, really lovely. And, Jack, I want to talk about your soy sugar glaze because I use always a soy molasses glaze for many, many things, which is my salt and sugar. And you're absolutely right. You don't really taste the soy -- and you don't taste the sweet. It's a perfect, perfect, perfect seasoner.
CZARNECKIYeah, you can't miss too much. I love your description in your answer in what to eat right now. In fact, I've just been following you on Twitter as of right now, Ris.
LACOSTEOh, great. Thank you, Jack.
NNAMDIYeah, well, Ris also mentioned pinot noir, Jack. And some ingredients are very tricky when it comes to pairing them with wine. But mushrooms have a couple of great varietals that they play very well with, and one of them is Pinot noir. Why is that?
CZARNECKIOh, Pinot noir is the best. As a matter of fact, if you read descriptions of Pinot noir, it's the one wine that most often utilizes descriptors like truffle, mushrooms and things like that. It's got an earthiness. Pinot noir is probably the most receptive to terroir and how much of the earth it brings to the flavors of the palate.
CZARNECKIAnd that's certainly true of wild mushrooms and truffles as well, so they naturally make a terrific match. And, of course, we're right in the center of the best Pinot noir winery in the world here in Willamette Valley.
LACOSTEThat, you are.
LASALAI think it's worth mentioning why mushrooms taste so good, at least in part. There's a flavor principal called -- that the Japanese call umami. Food chemists in the U.S. would crassly refer to it as, oh, you mean, glutamic. So the amount of sodium glutamate, but what it does is it makes certain foods taste much better, I think. And mushrooms happen to be very rich. They're one of the best sources of glutamate -- glutamate, some people would say.
NNAMDIOn to the telephones. Here is David in Front Royal, Va. David, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DAVIDHi. How are you guys doing today?
DAVIDWait, well, you know, I am chef, and I'm a forager. And this year -- I tuned in late for the show. But this year has been amazing with all this rain, and just a couple of quick tips. If you find a lot of mushrooms which -- you know, I came out of the woods with about 30 pounds of chicken of the woods last week. What I do is I will sauté them all until they're fully cooked. I cool them quickly. I put them in Ziploc bags, and I put them in my freezer.
DAVIDAnd then I just have them throughout the year. There are so many around right now. I picked a puffball from behind the Staples on the Rockville Pike last week, and it was great. And the other thing that I just wanted to say is that mushrooms are tricky. Like, sometimes, you know, if you drink alcohol and eat mushrooms, some people get kind of a funny tummy or something like that.
DAVIDSo you just want to go out, get a great book, like "The North American Field Guide to Mushrooms " from the Audubon Society, and just pick sort of the safe six, like puffballs, chicken of the woods, hen of the woods, black trumpets, chanterelles and porcinis and you're pretty, pretty safe, although I have a little bit of a disclaimer.
DAVIDAnd then the best recipe I made all year is -- take some chicken of the woods that are cooked, chop them up, toss them with sliced potatoes, cover them with heavy cream, little salt and pepper and bake it 45 minutes, 400 degrees. The gratin is the best thing. It's like crack. So...
DAVID...enjoy your mushroom because this year has been tremendous. And there's still plenty of them around. There's purple-footed puffballs and giant puffballs, and the hens are starting. And go out there and enjoy.
NNAMDIDavid, you raise a number of issues, and I know that Ray, for one, would like to add something.
LASALAYeah, the one thing you don't want to do is, even if you have one of the books that Kojo recommended, you don't want to just start flipping through the book and try to match what you have in your hand to a photograph in the book because you just don't know enough to decide on that basis, whether or not it's the same mushroom.
NNAMDIIdentifying mushrooms can be exceedingly complex. Not only are there thousands of different varieties -- so a photo probably won't help you -- some of which have never even been documented even today, some mushrooms are highly poisonous when they're raw, healthy when they're cooked. And I think David mentioned this. Apparently, one kind of mushroom is very dangerous, but only if you consume alcohol when you eat it.
LASALAThere are a couple of mushrooms like that. I wouldn't say that they're very dangerous, but there's one mushroom called the inky cap, Coprinus atramentarius. It's fine if you eat it by itself. But if you have it and alcohol in your system at the same time, it acts the very same way that Antabuse does. It prevents your body from completely metabolizing the alcohol, and you get really sick.
LASALABut, you know, the same thing can happen -- or something similar, not the same thing -- but you can get sick from eating a whole lot of morels and drinking a lot of alcohol. I know people who cannot have both in their system at the same time.
NNAMDIAnd you have a paper called...
CZARNECKIYeah, I'd like to throw in, too, that...
NNAMDIPlease go ahead, Jack.
CZARNECKI….well, 'cause I'm eating raw mushrooms. A lot of raw mushrooms is not a good idea either 'cause raw mushrooms have a high amount of chitin. Cooking breaks down the chitin to smaller molecules. It's a cellulose nitrogen-oriented byproduct, and it can make you sick if you eat a lot of them. So normally, edible mushroom, like a porcini or especially a morel, can cause you a lot of gastric distress if you don't thoroughly cook it.
NNAMDIAnd Ray LaSala gave me a paper he's got called microscopic identification of mushrooms, that is, if you're out, and you don't have a microscope. We'll have that posted on our website sometime after the show today. So you can go to kojoshow.org.
NNAMDISo if you're out foraging, you get a better -- you have a better chance of knowing exactly what you're looking at. But, Jack, David also talked about going out and finding a lot of mushrooms. They grow everywhere, but you help lead excursions to specific spots that tend to yield good hauls of mushrooms. Where do you go?
CZARNECKIOh, you're very good. If I tell you that, I'll have to shoot you.
CZARNECKIBoy, you slipped that right in there.
NNAMDIHere's another one.
CZARNECKIYou know, you (unintelligible) ...
NNAMDII read an interview that you conducted...
CZARNECKI... (unintelligible) go right there so...
NNAMDIYou conducted an interview some years ago, Jack, where you said you collected 500 pounds of porcini mushrooms in two days from Mount St. Helens.
CZARNECKIYeah, up at Mount St. Helens. That's exactly right. It can be spectacular here. You know, mushroom hunting in the Northwest is like sex. When it's good, it's really, really good. And when it's bad, it's still not that bad. And...
NNAMDIStop with the comparisons to crack and sex, please.
CZARNECKIYou're learning a lot about mushroom foragers on this show today.
CZARNECKIBut, yeah, the Northwest just -- can be really spectacular, not every year, but -- and we have them 365 days out of a year. When we're done mushroom hunting, we go out and hunt truffles during the winter. So it's perfect.
NNAMDIRay is much more open than you are when it comes to talking about the specific spots that you...
LASALAOh, no, I'm not.
LASALAI am notorious for not revealing where I find stuff. People ask me, okay, look, at least tell us what state you were in when you found it. My response is ecstasy.
CZARNECKIThere you go.
NNAMDIHere we go again. Here is Shannon in Takoma Park, Md. Shannon, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
SHANNONHi, I'm a mother of three children. They're aged five, two and two months old, and I'm also an avid fungophile. I often get out in the woods, and I think looking for mushrooms is a great activity to get kids out in the woods, to engage with nature and just the wow factor of how many there are, kind of like birding, but you get the additional bonus of being able to occasionally eat what you find.
SHANNONAnd I talked with another mom yesterday, who's just been terrified of mushrooms since she watched an "ER" show about 10 years ago. And I think that the current news is a good wakeup call to use common sense and education. But you can also not teach kids and others to be scared of mushrooms. Our kids know basic safety rules. We only eat mushrooms that we're absolutely sure okay.
SHANNONAs a friend said, you should be as sure as you are that -- of a mushroom as you are of a banana, you know, that it's definitely a banana before you eat it and only after they're cooked. So I hope that -- and I'm glad that your show is kind of talking about the good side of them as we're also getting the news of be very, very careful because they can make you very sick. Thanks so much.
NNAMDIOh, thank you very much for your call.
NNAMDIAnd you, too, can call us at 800-433-8850. Or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Ris, Jack, wild mushrooms are expensive, sometimes very expensive. So it would be pretty cost-prohibitive to cook with these ingredients in bulk. One of the challenges is to get the interesting and complex flavors from these mushrooms without breaking the bank. How do you recommend doing that?
CZARNECKIWell, foraging them on your own is one way. And that's where joining a group like Ray's, the Washington Mycological Society, is a good way to start. And, you know, it's amazing how far a good bottle of wine will go towards discovering somebody else's spots.
NNAMDIYeah, what good wild mushrooms are in season right now, Ray?
LASALAOh, there are so many: horse mushrooms, pink bottoms, hen of the woods, chicken of the woods, tree ears. It's a little early, but maybe even shaggy manes, honey mushrooms -- Jack, help me out.
CZARNECKIWell, you got porcini back there also in your pine forest.
LASALAYeah, but not around the Washington area. The best we do around here is slippery jacks, which, I think, are really tasty when they're dry, but not so interesting when fresh.
CZARNECKIYeah, you're right. Don't forget (unintelligible) you're right about that.
LASALAYeah, tree ears.
LASALAOyster mushroom is always around, yeah.
CZARNECKIOyster mushrooms, yeah.
LASALAPom pom, it's not one my favorites. I think it's kind of blah.
LACOSTEWhat's the other name for pom pom? What is it called?
LASALASatyr's beard, bear's head.
CZARNECKIOh, you know, you have black chanterelles back there also.
LASALAIt's a little late for them, but they are wonderful in summer. Yeah.
NNAMDIRis, I forgot to get your suggestions for using mushrooms with complex flavors without breaking the bank.
LACOSTEWell, I think, like anything, you can have -- as I do, you have meat loaf on the menu, but you also have rack of lamb. So if have an absolutely sensational mushroom that you love, you serve it, and you charge the price that you have to to share that experience with everyone. Otherwise, you make a medley of mushrooms. You make a mix of them and provide a great ragout of wild mushrooms.
LACOSTEAnd so you can detect certain flavors, and the good ones will stand out, or the ones with more flavor will stand out. But if you wanted to serve those great morels on their own, or those great porcinis on their own, that is the treat. And, unfortunately, you know, you pay the price that you have to and for us. You charge the price that you have to to survive. But the most important part is that you're introducing and/or giving your guest that great experience.
LASALAWell, one of the...
CZARNECKIYou know, the other thing, Kojo, it's a good idea, dried morels or dried porcini are also great sources of flavor 'cause the liquid's out of it. The flavor is concentrated in the dried mushrooms. And reconstituted juices you get back from those mushrooms make wonderful bases for sauces and soups.
LASALAJack, you stole my thunder. I was going to say that one good trick to use is to cook the mushroom in a sauce or something like that, a vehicle that will absorb the flavor and carry it and keep it on your palate. Cream is really great for that. Mushroom risotto is really tasty, even just the mushroom gravy. But rather than just serve the mushroom straight up sautéed, you cook it in liquid and serve that liquid with the dish.
CZARNECKIMm hmm. Yeah, we make a risotto, and we -- instead of using water, we use the liquid from reconstituted dried porcini. And then we finish it and top it off with Oregon truffle oil. It's a great fungal experience.
NNAMDIHere is Cris in Lyndon, Va. Cris, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CRISHi. I wanted to say hello to Jack. I was at his restaurant in Reading, Pa., some 20-odd years ago.
CRISA mushroom-lover friend of mine chartered a private plane for the two of us to fly to Reading from Clearfield, Pa., for dinner at Joe's. My favorite was Patty's pate, and you actually signed a cookbook that he had given to me years before that I brought with me for that dinner, still have it and make Patty's pate all the time. It is absolutely wonderful.
CZARNECKIOh, well, thank you very much. Yeah, well, we have the Joel Palmer House now in the west. I actually sold that to my son a couple of years ago. And we do a lot of the same things that we did back at Joe's in Reading. We opened that in 1997 in Dayton, Ore.
CRISRight. Okay, nice to know that you're in Oregon now.
CZARNECKICome see us.
CRISIf I ever get there, I will. Thank you.
CZARNECKIYou're welcome. Thanks.
NNAMDICris, thank you very much for your call. We got an email from Susan, who says, "For years, I've had a mushroom fungus that repeatedly grows in my Alexandria yard. It's hard, golf-ball sized and partly buried fungus, which grows to a softball-sized puff then splits open. I've already removed a dozen or more from the yard, but they still come.
NNAMDI"Out of curiosity, when they were around tennis-ball sized, I cut through and found very tight, black, pepper-smelling flesh. Any idea what kind of mushroom this is and whether it might be edible?" Ray.
LASALAIt sounds like it might have been the pigskin poison puffball, Scleroderma citrinum, which is very toxic. Although I understand that in Eastern Europe they use very thin shavings of it to flavor stuff, but I wouldn't recommend trying it.
CZARNECKIDoes it grow to softball size, though?
LASALAOh, no, it doesn't. You're right, Jack. Well, then it would have been an earthstar probably. I don't know, a Geastrum or something like that.
NNAMDIHere now is Mary Katherine in College Park, Md. Hi, Mary Katherine.
MARY KATHERINEHi. This is my first time calling. I love your show.
KATHERINEI can't claim credit for this, but one who works at the USDA posted on Facebook last week. Apparently, they were at a meeting -- this may be (word?), but someone asked an expert, how do you tell poisonous mushrooms from non-poisonous? And the answer was, it takes two people, one to eat and one to observe.
NNAMDIHaven't heard that one before. Are you familiar with that at all?
CZARNECKIIf it's not true, it should be.
NNAMDII guess so. This email we got from Dan, "Is it possible to grow mushrooms at home, maybe in your basement or in a bathroom closet? And if so, what's the best place to get more information about that?"
LASALAWell, one good source of information and materials for that is a company located in, I believe, Washington State called Fungi Perfecti.
LASALAYeah, they've got a lot of good stuff. There are other providers of mushroom spawn and books on mushrooms and so forth.
CZARNECKIOf course, it depends on how old your closet is too (unintelligible).
NNAMDII get the idea that I'm sitting in a mushroom fraternity or sorority.
LACOSTEI know, it is...
NNAMDIEverybody seems to know everybody else in it.
LACOSTEIt is. Well, it's great to listen to -- I'm enjoying it immensely, learning a lot.
NNAMDICould you repeat the name of the book, the field guide again, please?
LASALAThere are two that Jack mentioned. One is "Mushrooms Demystified" by David Arora, A-R-O-R-A. The other is "The North American Guide--" " Field Guide to American Mushrooms." It's published by the Audubon Society. The author is Gary Lincoff, L-I-N-C-O-F-F.
NNAMDIAnd you'll find links to both of those at our website, kojoshow.org. We're going to take a short break. If you have already called, stay on the line. We'll try to get to your call. If the lines are busy, go to our website, kojoshow.org. Or send us a tweet, @kojoshow. Email to email@example.com. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. It's a Food Wednesday conversation about autumn mushrooms, delicious and sometimes dangerous, with Raymond LaSala, president of Mycological Association of Washington. Jack Czarnecki is author of "A Cook's Book of Mushrooms." He's the owner of Oregon Truffle Oil. And Ris Lacoste is owner and chef of RIS restaurant D.C., which is at 22nd and L Street Northwest.
NNAMDIShe focuses on fresh seasonal dishes and ingredients. Ris, all mushrooms are 90 percent water. And if I'm interested in keeping their texture when I cook them, I need to cook them in such a way as to prevent them from releasing all that moisture. How do I do that?
LACOSTEWell, it depends on the mushroom and what your final product is. So you have a vision of what, you know, doing. If you're just sautéing mushrooms and want to sear them, you want to sear them in a very -- at a high heat and caramelize them, and do not crowd the pan. Otherwise, that heat -- the heat will have time to penetrate the mushroom, will break down the cells, release all the water, and you'll be poaching mushrooms instead of searing them.
LACOSTEHowever, as we discussed, those mushrooms give out such great flavors when you're having mushrooms and soups and mushrooms and all of that. It's not a bad thing to poach them, but I think it's the effect that you want. So if you really want not that watery content, you want that nice, seared, golden, caramelized mushroom, you really need to just do it little -- little bit of oil, a hot pan quickly and not crowding the pan.
NNAMDIHere is Christina in Philadelphia, Pa. Christina, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CHRISTINAHello. I would love to know more about the nutritional content of different types of mushrooms and the benefits that we get when we eat them.
NNAMDII'll start with you, Ray LaSala.
LASALAWell, they're 90 percent, by weight, water. I think that there are certainly complex polysaccharides that are in there that are supposed to stimulate your immune system. Buttons have more protein than fully expanded caps. No fat to speak of in mushrooms. No sugar or starch to speak of in mushrooms.
CZARNECKIYeah, they've got a fair -- a fairly good amount of B vitamins as well, although they're not known for that. They -- with some exceptions. There's almost no vitamin C in them, so it's mostly the minerals.
CZARNECKIAnd as Ray was pointing out, the polysaccharides thing, it turns out to be pretty important 'cause in mushroom research done in China and Japan, they found that those polysaccharides, particularly in something called a reishi, which, otherwise, is inedible but makes a great tea, has been really important in cancer research in the Far East.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Christina. Here is Fritz in Arlington, Va. Fritz, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
FRITZHi. Listen, first of all, I want to thank you for this great show. I've been an amateur sort of mushroom gatherer -- I don't know if there are any professional ones -- for many years. It's my weird and wonderful hobby. It's great to hear from all the experts. I want to say two things. First of all, I second the nomination for David Arora's "Mushrooms Demystified" book. I think it's a great handbook, very thorough.
FRITZAnd also, I just wanted to say that as a D.C. area mushroom hunter, I've actually found -- I had some of my best luck in Rock Creek Park.
FRITZI found morels in there, tons of chanterelles...
FRITZ...(word?) mushrooms all over the place. So that's -- you know, I (unintelligible)...
NNAMDIFritz, you will notice I said uh oh twice when you mentioned Rock Creek Park. Ray LaSala will tell us why.
LASALADon't give your address because the mushroom police -- they'll come and bust you. You're not allowed to remove natural materials in Rock Creek Park.
NNAMDIYeah, it's important to know which parks...
CZARNECKIYou know, that makes them taste better, right?
NNAMDIIt's just important to know which parks you can forage in and which you cannot, right, Ray?
FRITZOh, golly. Well, shame on me. I'll -- I hereby cease and desist, probably.
NNAMDII hereby cease and desist, probably, he says. They're much too good, huh, Fritz? Thank you very much for your call. Jack, you have scoured the earth looking for the best wild mushrooms, and you've written award-winning cookbooks on the subject. But your current endeavor involves a different fungus altogether. Tell us about your truffle business.
CZARNECKIWell, I started -- when I sold the restaurant to my son a few years ago, I continued research I've been doing for 15 years on truffles, which turns out to be rather fascinating. In fact, we produce a white truffle oil, the only Oregon white truffle oil produced and also the only one that's all natural. Most Oregon -- most truffle oils that come in are synthetically produced. But truffles are really fascinating. They're not like mushrooms.
CZARNECKIThey need to mature. And there -- the knock on Oregon truffles very often is that they don't have any flavor, but that's simply because they haven't been properly matured, which you can do once they're out of the ground. So there's a bit of a learning curve about truffles, which is very, very important. You can go to my website, oregontruffleoil.com. We got an FAQ section about that. But...
NNAMDII did. And -- I did go to that website. And if we thought the science of mushrooms is complex, the truffle is a scientific mystery, apparently wrapped in a conundrum, isn't it?
CZARNECKIThe Europeans have known about these things for years, but they're not talking. And I've had to virtually rediscover everything about truffles. And it's amazing what people who've been working with fungi for a long time don't know about them. But once I got into it, I certainly understood why. They're not simple.
CZARNECKIYou have to understand the concept of ripening 'cause you have to understand that truffles throw up a 3- or 4,000-year-old Darwinian cocktail of gasses, particularly sulfur compounds, for the sole purpose of attracting animals to themselves because that's where they propagate. Truffles don't have a root system. They have to be eaten in order to survive. And that's the key. It's all about the gas.
NNAMDIRis Lacoste, have you noticed how food shows are more like science shows every day now?
LACOSTEWell, they are, every day, and it is really fascinating. It takes us to a whole another level, doesn't it?
NNAMDIIt certainly does. Thank you very much for explaining that, Jack. Here now is Jim in Silver Spring, Md. Jim, you're on the air. Go ahead, please. Hi, Jim, are you there? Jim, I'll put you on hold for a second. Jim may have walked away from the telephone for a while. And we will go instead to Meegan (sp?) in Takoma Park, Md. Meegan, your turn.
MEEGANHi. I was wondering whether, like my mother always told me to do, to leave some mushrooms behind, so they could go to spore and ensure that there'd be a crop the following year.
NNAMDIWhat do you say, Ray?
LASALAWell, the Pacific Northwest Research Station of the USDA Forest Service did a study of clear picking versus leaving some mushrooms in patches. I think they did this regarding chanterelles, and also matsutake, in the Pacific.
LASALAThey found no difference whatsoever in the productivity. In fact, what they found was that, if anything, there was a slight increase in the productivity in the chanterelle patches.
CZARNECKIYeah, it seems (unintelligible). That was a project done up at a place called Wildcat Mountain outside of Sandy, Ore. I'm familiar with that. And Ray's exactly right. It seems counterintuitive. And I had a discussion with a guy last week about that. He said, oh, you picked the root. They're not going to come back. I said, listen, there's billions and billions of miles of mycelium there.
CZARNECKIPicking a few -- getting a few out when you pick a mushroom at the root is not going to change that. They'll be plenty next year.
NNAMDIMeegan, thank you for your call. This email we got from Sarah is for any and all of you. "My parents recently visited from Northern California, and they brought us a huge bag of candy cap mushrooms for us. We know they're safe because they were purchased from a known local collector, and my folks regularly eat them. They smell so strongly that every time we walk into the kitchen, it overwhelms us with a curry and cinnamon smell.
NNAMDI"My folks recommended some dessert and breakfast recipes, but my kids probably won't go for that. Can any of your guests recommend a good -- savory dishes to include them in? And, sorry, we can't use any butter in the recipe due to a dairy allergy." Any thoughts on that, Jack?
CZARNECKIYes. We actually do a mushroom martini in our restaurant. And that's funny she used those descriptors. The word most often associated with candy caps is maple. But here's what you do. You make a -- make a simple syrup, which is just basically water and sugar. But instead of using water, reconstitute the dried candy cap and use the liquid to make your simple syrup. And voila, you have a wild mushroom dessert sauce.
CZARNECKIAnd it's -- but it's absolutely wonderful. And that could be the base of all sorts of things. Now, she mentioned savory dishes. You could use a savory dish, but there are so many other wild mushrooms for savory dishes. I would keep the candy caps for sweet desserts. We make a crème brulée with it, for instance. But reconstituting the dried ones and using the liquid is really the best way to maximize the flavor of that mushroom.
NNAMDIThank you very much. Here is Milan (sp?) in Washington, D.C. Milan, your turn.
MILANYes. I remember my days in New York living in a Slovak community when we got dried mushrooms from Czechoslovakia. And my mother would make a soup that was to die for. The whole apartment building would be redolent with the smell of mushroom. So if you can't freeze them, certainly slice them thin and spread them out on a white bed sheet in the sunshine and dry them. And they last a heck of a long time.
NNAMDIWhy a bed sheet?
MILANYes. And then...
NNAMDI'Cause that's what your mom used, right?
MILANMy uncle in Pennsylvania used to do the same thing.
NNAMDII guess so. The bed sheet has become a part...
LACOSTEAttracts the sun. That white attracts the sun. Hello, Milan.
NNAMDIOh, well, we see all of our guests and callers -- no one -- Milan, thank you for your call. Here's Ray LaSala.
LASALAThe one thing I would add to that is I find it best to store them in glass jars, not just plastic bags, because plastic is somewhat permeable. It'll let in air and moisture. The glass really seals them up.
CZARNECKIThat's a good idea, once they're dried, to keep them either in a refrigerator or freezer 'cause if you leave them at room temperature, these little bugs can hatch. And if you leave them for a couple of years, you might find that your dried mushrooms have turned into mushroom dust...
CZARNECKI...with lots and lots of happy bugs running around inside them.
NNAMDIFrom white bed sheets to etiquette, here is Sarah in Takoma Park, Md. Sarah, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
SARAHHi, Kojo. Thanks for taking my call. I'm a longtime mushroom hunter and a writer, and I've written about mushrooms, including a book. I've also been to Joe's restaurant many times.
SARAHMy question -- I have one small comment, which is that there's another danger besides the toxins in mushrooms, and that is driving around looking for mushrooms and suddenly coming upon them and stopping the car, causing an accident, which has almost happened to me a couple of times -- so to be careful when you're driving around. But my question...
CZARNECKIGood for you.
CZARNECKIGood for you.
SARAHMy question is to Ray, mostly about the etiquette of hunting on people's lawns, which I've always done. And I always ring the doorbell or knock on the door. And if somebody comes to the door, I tell them why I'm there. And if they're edible, I tell them and want to share them, and, usually, they say no. But, often, people aren't there, and I kind of have just, over the years, been taking them, helping myself.
SARAHAnd I just wonder if there's any law against that or if it's -- I feel so guilty for doing it, but I still do it. So I wonder what the practice was there.
NNAMDIOnly the law of not unnecessarily annoying homeowners. Ray LaSala.
LASALAI think, strictly speaking, it's trespassing. I have to confess that...
LASALA...every now and then, when I'm in that situation, the little man on my left shoulder says, oh, go ahead. They'll never know the difference.
SARAHWell, I got that same man, I guess.
CZARNECKIHe's a little man with a loud voice.
NNAMDIJust be careful, Sarah. That's all I would say.
SARAHYeah. No, I am. Thank you.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. We got this email from Norman in Cheverly, who says, "What determines which mushrooms can be grown commercially? Will any of the popular wild mushrooms ever be domesticated? Does it have to do with properly inoculating the spores?" Ray LaSala?
LASALANo. It has to do with what the mushrooms like to grow on. The ones that are easily cultivated are those that grow on dead material, like straw, let's say. That's why the French started cultivating the button mushroom on horse manure and so forth. The ones that are really hard to cultivate are the ones that require a symbiotic relationship with a living organism, a tree or whatever.
LASALAThose -- they -- in some cases, they've figured out how to do it in the laboratory, but they can't figure out how to do it on a commercial scale. The one exception would be the truffle, which requires a symbiotic relationship with a tree, such as oak or maybe hazelnut bushes or whatever. They have figured out how to cultivate them. They are doing that certainly in Europe and New Zealand and maybe even in Oregon. I don't know.
NNAMDIHere now is Quentin in Washington, D.C. Quentin, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
QUENTINThank you. I just wanted to mention that I had the pleasure of eating at Joe's in Reading quite a few years ago. And, of course, I had the mushrooms, and, also, it was the first place I had ostrich. Yeah, I think, probably the mushrooms went a long ways towards making that meal very enjoyable. Also, I do have Jack's book from an event at the Mycological Association and American Institute of Wine and Food several years ago.
NNAMDIHave you found it useful?
QUENTINVery. And one of the things that's really useful about it, I think, is experiencing the umami impact on foods of all kinds, so...
NNAMDIAnd I'm afraid we're almost out of time. But, Jack, you may want to add a comment on the umami impact.
CZARNECKIWell, like Ray pointed out, it's -- mushrooms have that characteristic, and umami just tends to carry flavors more forcefully to the palate. And, you know, it's one of those things that makes mushrooms so wonderful and so unique.
NNAMDIAnd I guess -- sorry, we're out of time now. We all have to run off to go get our mushrooms. Ris Lacoste is owner and chef of RIS restaurant D.C. She focuses on fresh seasonal dishes and ingredients. Ris, always a pleasure.
LACOSTEPleasure is mine, Kojo. Thank you so much.
NNAMDIRaymond LaSala is president of the Mycological Association of Washington. Ray, good to see you again.
LASALAIt was great to be here, Kojo.
NNAMDIAnd Jack Czarnecki is author of "A Cook's Book of Mushrooms" and owner of Oregon Truffle Oil. Jack, thank you so much for joining us.
CZARNECKIThis was a real pleasure. Come out and see us in Oregon.
NNAMDII'll try my best. And thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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