21 September 2014

A Foray into Mushrooms at the Fungi Festival with Paparadelle with Chanterelles

Chanterelles in Cilento
OK I am ready to conform. Break out the apples, the squash and the pumpkins. Autumn is bombarding all of our senses. The bright kaleidoscope of autumn leaves, the nip in the air, the sound of flocks of geese moving on. You can feel the changes at night. As the sun sets, a cool blanket of air gently rolls down the hill. And that, if combined with a few days of steady rains, means we are into the autumn mushroom season. I have waited patently all year for natures work to come to fruition in this symbiotic dance between trees and fungi.  Wild mushrooms, other than chanterelles, porcini and oyster mushrooms, are hard to find in retail stores which may lend fuel to foraging for your own. 

On a rare day off from work this past Saturday I could be found driving 2 hours north to the small community of Sicamous for the annual Fungi Festival. It has been on my radar for a few years but always the timing had been off with my work schedule. So this year I arrived at 11:30 and checked in at the Red Barn anticipating what the day would bring. At the very least I would get a little exercise on an aromatic walk in the woods since mushrooms need trees. I was not disappointed!

Inside the Red Barn a myriad of tables were piled with fresh specimens still crusted with pine needles and humus, and the moist, musty scent of the forest hung in the air. Each mushroom was labelled in groups and there was an expert available to answer any questions you might have. We examined the caps, gills and stems, and the spongy pores on the underside of mushrooms like the boletus (a.k.a. porcini or cepe) and the toothy spines of hedgehog mushrooms. 
Shaggy Parasols, ?; Lobster Mushrooms; Russulas (non edible)
No matter what the season mushrooms lend their rich, earthy flavour to our dishes and tantalising our senses. The exotic allure of wild mushrooms has inspired many poets across the centuries and have always been prized for their savoury umami woodland flavour.  

In your own neighbourhood you may have access to wild mushrooms. Maybe you are knowledgeable  and know exactly where to find what you are looking for, what is edible, and what would send you to the hospital or give you a tummy ache. For most of us wild mushrooms are found through wild food wholesalers who purchase from skilled foragers. They commonly sell to restaurants where you might get a taste of some of the more common species like chanterelles, porcini, oysters, honey, angel wings, and lobster mushrooms. We find them in season in several shops around town and from "The Mushroom Guy" at the farmers market. Attending a local festival where I can gain confidence and learn to forage in my own area, as well as satisfy my cravings for these earthy fungi seemed like a "win win situation."

To add to the experience I had signed up for the cooking class which is by far the best ten dollars I have ever spent. After a show-and-tell primer, our chef Colin Cogswell and his accomplice Ellen Wisser sliced, sautéed and delivered tastes of various dishes to the gathered students. Some were avid "mushroomers," arriving with dog-eared field guides and special tools like mushroom magnifiers and measuring devices. Many, like me,  are simply curious cooks, keen to know more about the complex world of mycology.

What's on offer; tomato soup; slicing pine mushrooms (matsutake)
We started our adventure by making a "pine mushroom" tomato soup in this demonstration style class.  The large pine mushroom, or matsutake commands high prices for its aromatic characteristics. Their distinctive spicy aroma and flavour are absolutely unique in the mushroom world.  The flavour is clean and spicy, with a surprisingly firm texture that is meaty and satisfying in a tomato soup. I have never tasted anything like it. Everyone seemed to agree that this simple preparation was the best way to showcase its unique qualities.

In the kitchen we also prepared one of my favourites a Chanterelle Mushroom Risotto. As with all wild mushrooms they should be allowed to "sweat" in the pan without oil or butter to reduce their natural liquids, release any possible toxins, and make them digestible. The golden chanterelles offer a whiff of apricot and a peppery finish to any dish. 

As a last foray into cooking we wandered across the street where we plucked fairy ring mushrooms from their neighbours lawn, sautéed them in a pan, and finishing them with a little butter. The flavour and aroma of M. oreades are out of proportion to its size. Added fresh to soups, ragouts, and stews, it offers a definite, somewhat sweet taste. This sweet quality also enhances the taste of cookies. They were the piece de resistance!

With a small group of enthusiasts we gathered for a walk guided by Peter Kroger who is a walking encyclopedia as a researcher, collector, and consultant, in forest mycology, toxicology, medicines, and identification. If anyone knows wild mushrooms, it's Paul! He has been asked to compile a list of all of the mushrooms in British Columbia. So far there are 3,000 species categorized and identified with an estimated 10,000 more to go I believe he mentioned. 

As we walked through the woods I could see clusters of mushrooms along the leaf-strewn trails. We sometimes picked our way deeper into the shady woods, the beams of late-afternoon sunlight slicing nearly horizontally through the canopy of trees. We trudged along the narrow deer trails, city park and river trails for several hours, heads bowed, eyes fixed on the jumble of late-season detritus at our feet. Peter proffered a different type of mushroom every 10 minutes during our foray through the forest. 

There are 10,000 species of mushroom in British Columbia. In October, if you walk slowly, they’ll just start popping up before you. Maybe a quarter of them are truly edible. The local forests are a bonanza for the mushroom hunter, but you must know what's what. While there are a multitude of different kinds of edible mushrooms in the area, the majority of mushrooms Mr. Kroger spots with his keen mushroom vision were poisonous, have an unappealing taste, or would make you sick. The hallucinogenic psylocybe falls into the inedible category, but others are seriously deadly, so I'm happy to follow in the expert's footsteps.

Mushrooms are the "fruit" of a fungus that lives unseen in the soil or duff on the forest floor. This underground portion of a fungus is a root-like network called a mycelium. Often this mycelium is interconnected with the roots of a living tree. Chanterelles need Douglas fir. Oyster mushrooms need alder deadwood. Pine mushrooms need pine. Luckily for us the mycelium annually produces spore-bearing bodies...mushrooms which are prized by gourmands, restauranteurs and home cooks like me. 

When you harvest mushrooms, it is important that you do not harm the mycelium that produces the mushroom. Undamaged, and with favourable weather conditions, the fungus will produce a crop each year and as mentioned before when the conditions are right they practically pop up before your eyes.

The hike honed our appetites, and there were several delectable entrees on the menu to satisfy every taste as we sipped wine from local winemakers. Lobster mushrooms, which are mildly flavoured, visually striking, and maintain a firm texture, were layered in vegetarian lasagna. Chanterelles, which are rich in flavour, distinct in taste, and are often described as having a fruity and earthy aroma were featured in a cream sauce and served over fresh schnitzels.  These, and other seasonal BC mushroom finds such as Gypsy mushrooms and Pine mushrooms, were cooked into a smoked tomato chili allowing even the most timid taste tester a gourmet mushroom experience. There was even a mushroom pate that I did not have the opportunity to try. Maybe next year!! 

There's no doubt that this festival is one of the best entrances into the burgeoning Similkameen food community... a chance to taste the finest local food in the land, along with some fascinating company. As one tourist from the States pointed out it's a magical little place, and it's not just the mushrooms.

With the onset of autumn my own thoughts move quickly over to comfort foods. It is not uncommon in fall for my home to be filled with warm, fragrant and earthy aromas of a slow cooked roast or a bubbling crock pot. Mushrooms often play a starring role. Give this recipe a try as you fall under the spell of the autumn season. 

**Pappardelle with Chanterelles**

2 tablespoons butter
4-6 oz. fresh chanterelles, cleaned and sliced 1/8-inch thick (or use another kind of fresh mushroom)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup (or more) heavy cream
8 oz. dry or 12 oz. fresh pappardelle, cooked just under al dente
salt, to taste
freshly ground pepper, to taste
Parmesan cheese, grated
2 slices bacon, cooked and chopped finely
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped finely

In a stainless steel sauté pan (just don’t use non-stick pans) over high heat sweat the chanterelles. Add  the butter and sauté until lightly browned and cooked through. (At this point you can reserve a few of the nicer looking slices for garnish if you plan to go that route). Add the garlic and sauté approximately one minute until fragrant. Pour in the white wine and simmer until the wine is reduced and nearly evaporated. Add the cream and bring the sauce to a boil. Turn off the heat. Add the pasta. Season with salt and pepper. Gently toss the pasta with the sauce. Place some pasta and sauce on a plate. Garnish with Parmesan cheese, a sprinkle of bacon crumbs, parsley, and any additional salt and pepper. Top with a slice or two of the sautéed chanterelles.

Serves 2-4.

Around the web…

Chanterelle Mushroom Tart
Chanterelle Mushroom Lasagna

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author/owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison.

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  1. Sounds very nice to have this experience.
    The recipe sounds wonderful. Blessings, Catherine

  2. It sounds like a fine culinary adventure and an excellent way to spend a Saturday. Very interesting stuff. I'm curious with the Pappardelle, why no non-stick pans. Is because you want to have sticky brown bits for when you deglaze with the wine?

    1. The hurried cook will barely heat the pan before adding oil and tossing in onions for a sauté. Next comes...nothing. No sizzle. A hot pan is essential for sautéing veggies or creating a great crust on meat, fish, and poultry. It also helps prevent food from sticking. The mushrooms sweating in the pan will not really have sticky brown bits as meat would, but they will "sweat" in their own juices. As with most cooking what crusty bits you can conjure are critical for flavour, particularly with lower-fat cooking. As a general rule I use non stick pans for things like crepes and pancakes.

  3. A fabulous mushroom festival. I love fungis. Your paparadelle dish sounds wonderful.

    This weekend, I made gratin Dauphinois and added a few sliced boletus mushrooms to it. Fantastic!



  4. Oh my, I've never seen such a beautiful selection and abundance of mushrooms. I would have been like a kid in a candy store. I'll have a bag of each :)

  5. I agree- I'm ready to conform, too! And the idea of a mushroom festival is just lovely!


  6. I would have enjoyed everything:)

  7. I love mushrooms, and chanterelles are one of the best! What a fun experience. And, what a delicious pasta dish!

  8. Oh my. What wonderful mushrooms. I'd be ready to leap into fall too.

  9. Interesting Val. So the mushrooms should be first cooked without oil or butter? I usually start with oil or butter. Will have to try it. Thanks for the post.

    1. The chef stated you needed to "sweat" the mushrooms first. Lobster mushrooms especially are a parasitic mushroom and grow from one that is poisonous. Sweating them releases and reduce their liquid so they will not be "slimy", it reduces toxins that may or may not be present as well.

  10. I'm a known forager in these parts, but mushrooms are out of my league so I don't even try. Still, I have a mushroom that pops up in my yard quite often. I've researched and studied and even asked an expert. It's seems probable that they are edible parasol mushrooms. Still, I know I'll never be brave enough to try them. So I continue to march down the hill to the Hollywood Farmers Market where I get tried and true beauties like those pictured here. GREG

  11. Pappardelle with Chanterelles is one of my favorite pasta dishes. So delicious. To make it a bit "lighter", I usually add just a touch of cream and use olive oil instead of butter. In any case, it is a superb dish. I would love to attend a fungi festival... lucky you!

  12. What a fantastic and fascinating experience, Val. :-) I love the idea of mushrooms, but my body absolutely revolts at them. I'm hoping I'll grow out of it. :-)

  13. What a great adventure, Val! They're all great and I wish that barn was here! Thanks for sharing.

  14. The recipe sounds wonderful! I love mushrooms and what a neat class to take.

  15. How do you find so many fun foodie things to attend? I feel like I've become such a recluse-- ever since I met you at Foodbuzz. The first time I spotted Chanterelles, I got so excited. They are absolutely delicious, and turned my husband from an anti-fungi person to a believer in their power. Wow, this looks fabulous.

    1. I happen to live in an area where there are far too many wonderful events on the agenda throughout the year Debby. It makes it easy to attend, but hard to pick and choose.

  16. While reading your post, I am taken back to the Northern Italian mountains in autumn during my visit 2 years ago . . . during a time when porcini funghi are most prolific in abundance, freshness, and flavor! In the South, we have absolutely NO festivals to enjoy and focus on delicious 'shrooms! You do know that I am absolutely pea-green with envy (in a good way!). Thank you for this delicious recipe, Val! Hope you're doing well!

    1. The first photo was taken in the Cilento south of the Amalfi Coast in Italy the same year. The Baroness picked up 2 baskets full of chanterelles that were on the menu that night in pasta!

  17. I love autumn the best and I love finding such an amazing variety of mushrooms on our market, as well. We used to see so many more, but I am happy discovering and rediscovering what there is. I am so jealous of both your mushroom cooking class and the hunt! Wonderful! And I love the sound of this dish but wish you could have posted a pic of the finished dish. Just to dream over.

    1. Late night feasting prevented me from sharing the photo. In true blogger fashion I did try.

  18. HI, this is a terrific post and I love the recipe Pappardelle with Chantarelles. Stopping by from YBR at Spice Foodie.

  19. Val
    I have a love hate relationship with mushrooms. Remember that wild mushroom soup in SF. I had allergic reaction. However, recently in Italy I had the best truffle sauce ever. However, I so love chanterelles especially with a papparadelle pasta. In Italy, it was fun to see mushroom stands popping up on side of the road.


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