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‘Shroomin’ with the Gang

with Recipes for Uber-Umami Scallops 
Wild Mushroom and Bacon Spoonbread

This past Holiday season when the Wife asked me what I wanted for Christmas, being the anti-clutter, useless-junk hater that I am, I immediately began thinking of all of the things that I didn’t want.  Maybe it’s the Virgo part of me that just can’t stand to have crap all over the house. Or maybe it’s the frugal introvert who just wants to be left alone in an empty room.  The one who is already dreading and calculating the amount of garbage that will pass in and out of my house (not to mention the amount of money spent on said garbage) before the Holidays even begin.  And let’s just say my friends, having married a woman who considers hanging out at the local Target a day in paradise (a trait she inherited from her Mother), our pile on garbage pickup day outside of my house this past Christmas-after was a shuddering embarrassment. Even the Wife had to agree this time as we drove through our neighborhood, comparing post-holiday junk piles that it was time to seriously cut down.

So when I really gave her question some thought, I decided that besides the usual consumables (this year was bacon of the month – Thanks Mom-in-law!) that are always a highlight, I wanted an experience.  Hmmm?  Let’s see.  In considering my usual on-going desires to travel/eat around the world, become a world-class Tango dancer, pilot my own fishing boat around the Bay, get back into oil painting, hunt for wild boar and buy a house with a yard just to cultivate a huge garden, what I decided I really wanted to do was go on a Mushroom Forage.  And, luckily enough we were in the middle of the season here in NorCal.

Seeing as how I didn’t feel qualified to go out on my own, field guide in hand, and actually pick anything that didn’t kill me, I decided to sign up for a forage hosted by one of the local organizations such as forage SF or Mycological Society of San Francisco .  Unfortunately those foraging classes sell out quickly and are always scheduled when I am working.  Eventually after some Internet searching I found these guys and decided to hire a professional mushroom forager to show me the ropes and help me get the hang of something I’ve always been fascinated with. And then of course, since I was gonna go through the trouble of organizing a private foray I decided to invite a few Hall of Famers from the restaurant to join me:

Clockwise From Left:  Most Likely To Be Mistakenly Shot For A Bear;  Most Likely To Suffer From A Self-Inflicted Wound;  Most Likely To Be Lured Off The Trail By A Nice Glass Of Pinot.
Clockwise from left: Most Likely to be Mistakenly Shot for a Bear; Most Likely to Suffer from a Self-Inflicted Wound; Most Likely to Be Lured Off the Trail by a Nice Glass of Pinot.  Photos by Libby Truesdell.
Clockwise From Left: Most Likely To Be Eaten By The Big, Big Bad Wolf; Most Likely To Trip Her Balls Off On 'Shrooms;  Most Likely To Lose A Toe To Frostbite
Clockwise from Left: Most Likely to be Eaten by the Big, Big Bad Wolf; Most Likely to Trip Her Balls Off on ‘Shrooms; Most Likely to Lose a Toe to Frostbite. Photos by Libby Truesdell.

We met our guide, Don, on an extraordinarily clear morning in Inverness where he had us caravan with him up to the top of nearby Mount Vision. I couldn’t have found a more suitable person in our friendly and super-informative guide who basically had the temperament of someone who spends a lot of time wondering around alone in the woods – nice, simple and easy-going. Seriously, by the end of the day, watching him had me considering leaving the restaurant biz in the big city for a simpler life of staring at the forest floor for the rest of my life. *heavy sigh* Who am I becoming?

Anyway, he had us set our sights on three particular choice edibles that day:

Clockwise From Top:  Candy Caps, Man On Horseback, Hedgehogs
Clockwise from top: Candy Caps, Man on Horseback, and Hedgehogs

After a few late morning hours with most of us foraging for the first time ever, possibly one of the best picnics I’ve ever enjoyed (thanks to the combined culinary talents of the above-mentioned Hall of Famers, some fine drink and the most gorgeous views of the Farallon Islands) and few more slightly buzzed hours of foraging in the afternoon, this is a sampling of what we actually came up with (with my own personal tasting notes):

Slippery Jack Mushroom:  It Was Slippery Alright, In A Most Disturbing Way As If Eating Live Worms.
Slippery Jack Mushroom: It was slippery alright, in a most repulsive way, as if eating live worms. Photo by Libby Truesdell.
Lactarius Deliciosus.  Whoever Named This Mushroom Has A Broken Palette.  It Is Not Delicious And Completely Flavorless In Fact.
Lactarius Deliciosus. Whoever named this mushroom has a broken palate.  Photo by Libby Truesdell.


Grisette Mushroom Was Yummy And Meaty.
Grisette Mushroom was yummy and meaty.  Photo by Libby Truesdell.
Amethyst Laccaria (On Top) Was A Beautiful Shade Of Purple When We Picked Them.  Was Pretty Good, Sort Of Like A Softer Oyster Mushroom. Candy Caps (On Bottom) Was Crazy Delicious With Serious Maple Notes.
Amethyst Laccaria (on top) was a beautiful shade of purple when we picked them. Was pretty good, sort of like a softer oyster mushroom.
Candy Caps (on bottom) was crazy delicious with serious maple notes.  Photo by Libby Truesdell.
Black Elfen Saddle Has A Name As Bizarre As The Rubbery Texture And Complete Black Hole Of Flavorlessness It Creates I Your Mouth.  I Am Still Disturbed By This One.
Black Elfen Saddle has a name as bizarre as the rubbery texture and complete black hole of flavorlessness it creates in your mouth. I am still disturbed by this one.  Photo by Libby Truesdell.


I Found This Lone Deer Mushroom Right Before I Went Home And Boy Am I Glad I Did. Beautiful Texture And Luscious Flavor.
I found this lone Deer Mushroom right before I went home and boy am I glad I did. Beautiful texture and luscious flavor. Photo by Libby Truesdell.












Thank Goodness We Managed To Find At Least A Few Of These Beautiful Hedgehogs.  Absolutely The Crown Jewels Of The Day.
Thank goodness we managed to find at least a few of these beautiful hedgehogs. Absolutely the crown jewels of the day. Photo by Libby Truesdell

All in all, we all had a truly rewarding and wonderful day and I myself feel I learned enough to go back out alone confidently, which I plan on doing very soon.

Just before we left, Don was also kind enough to share some of his stash of dried candy caps that he had piled up in his van, which literally reeked of the stuff (in a super awesome way of course, if you could conjure up a smell for Umami this would be it).

Uber-Umami Sea Scallops

This is so super easy and can be done with just about any dried mushroom and applied also to pretty much any protein you desire, but I find I like it best with scallops or a nice lighter white fish like halibut.

Handful of Dried Mushrooms (I used Candy Caps)
Scallops (I used Dayboats, 10-12’s)
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil

Whole Dried Candy Caps. Mushroom Dusted Scallops
Whole Dried Candy Caps.
Mushroom Dusted Scallops.  Photos by Libby Truesdell


Place mushrooms in Cuisinart and pulverize into basically a dust.  Place a layer of the mushroom dust on a plate.  Salt and pepper scallops on both sides then press each side into the dust.  Into a heated pan add a tablespoon or two of olive oil and sear scallops on each side for 3 minutes.

Candy Cap Dusted Scallops, Served Simply With A Little Sautéed Asparagus.
Candy Cap dusted Scallops, served simply with a little sautéed asparagus.  Photo by Libby Truesdell.


Wild Mushroom and Bacon Spoonbread

I owe credit for the base of this spoonbread recipe to this character.  If you’re ever in the San Francisco Ferry Plaza pop by for one of his Cinnabon biscuits and tell him his Gaysian sister says “Hey Gurl”.

2 Thick Slices Bacon, minced
1 C Mushroom of Choice (I used rehydrated Candy Caps)
1 C Cornmeal
½ C Flour
1 TB Baking Powder
1 TSP Salt
3 TB Sugar
1 Minced Jalapeno
1 C Cheddar Cheese, grated
2 Beaten Eggs
1 C Cream Corn
1 C Sour Cream

Cook bacon until crispy.  Add mushrooms to pan and cook together until mushrooms are wilted.  Set aside to cool down.  Whisk dry ingredients together.  Stir together sour cream, eggs, cream corn, cheese, jalapeño, and bacon/mushroom mixture.  Add dry to wet mix and do not over mix.  Pour into a greased 9”x9” pan and bake At 350*.  For a softer spoonable spoonbread, remove from oven after 35 minutes.  For a firmer, but still really moist cornbread that you can cut into wedges, cook for about 12 minutes more.

Mushroom Spoonbread
Photo by Libby Truesdell