Through the years I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve been honoured to meet some truly fascinating, incredibly inspiring people. Farmers, chefs, home cooks, sommeliers, fellow bloggers, food-loving bon vivants and so many more. It’s been such a gratifying pleasure to find myself in the presence of those who are as moved by good food and drink as I am.
Recently, I had the great fortune of having some locally foraged Porcini mushrooms delivered by Scott Perrie (@morelsottawa), a man known by many local restaurants and food-lovers as “The Mushroom Man”. A veritable encyclopedia of foraged treasure knowledge, Scott is obviously passionate about his craft. He offered some helpful tips on how to clean, prepare and cook the little sack of mushrooms that hung in wait from my mailbox a couple weeks ago. With the bag bearing a note of assurance that they were, in fact, edible, I dove right in immediately; looking, touching, smelling, and generally enjoying being in the presence of something grown from the ground I walk on daily (Ok, not really. I don’t live in the forest…but I wish I did)
Unlike many people who “forage” (said with an upturn of the nose), Scott does this for himself as much as for others. The simple truth is that he likes to be in the forest and he likes to eat things while he’s there. It’s as unpretentious and simple as that. He’s not messing around, either, and knows that a keen eye and plenty of knowledge is the only way to forage safely. As he’s said in previous interviews, “There’s an evil twin mushroom to most edibles.”, and an untrained eye can easily mistake them. Though I’ve yet to spend any real-life time talking with Scott, I hope that time comes soon. Between him and his fiance, there is a whole lot of food knowledge that I’d be only so lucky to have bestowed upon me. I have a feeling we could find common ground on which to chat for many hours.
Before I leave you with the recipe I whipped up with these local gems, I urge you to seek out someone in your city with vast foraging knowledge. It’s such a thrill knowing what your city is capable of providing you with from it’s own bounty. Many cities offer foraging tours (Which Perrie might soon be offering - hint hint!) that might awaken you to how bountiful your own city really is.
Local Wild Mushroom Fettuccine
adapted from Bon Appetit
I purchased some local blue oyster & shiitake mushrooms to supplement the porcini’s from Perrie. Many specialty grocers (Il Negozio Nicastro's in Ottawa) offer a variety local mushrooms when the season is right.
1lb wild mushrooms (porcini, cremini, oyster, shiitake etc)
3/4 pound fettuccine
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, rough chopped
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp fresh Italian/flat-leaf parsley, rough chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
sea salt & fresh ground pepper
extra Parmesan to serve (optional)
extra parsley to serve (optional)
Bring a large pot of generously-salted (very important as this dish is so simple) water to a boil and cook pasta to just under al dente according to package instructions. If the package says 9 minutes, take out around 7. Reserve 1 cup of starchy pasta water before straining.
In a dry, heavy-bottom skillet set over medium-high heat, brown mushrooms in batches until golden and crisp. I browned each variety of mushroom on it’s own as they may have different moisture levels (a tip from Scott!). It should take about 6-7 minutes per batch to get them nice and golden.
Once all your mushrooms have been browned, remove everything from the pan. Add the butter and olive oil to pan and let it get shimmering and hot. Add the garlic and let it cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the mushrooms, parsley and red pepper flakes and saute until everything is combined, 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat.
Strain pasta (don’t forget to reserve 1 cup starchy water), and add back to large pot. Scoop the mushroom mixture into the pasta, making sure to really scrape all the good bits from the pan, with the Parmesan cheese and 1/4 cup of starch water and toss. If it’s too dry, add more water a little at a time until you’ve got a nice, loose mushroom sauce coating all the noodles. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed.
Garnish each serving with pine nuts, extra cheese, parsley and fresh ground pepper.