Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Hedgehog Mushrooms + Saffron Risotto & Fried Shallots

Hedgehog mushrooms cannot be cultivated like cremini or shiitake, so whenever you find them at the market, they have been foraged or picked from the forest floor. This buff-colored mushroom gets its name from having soft quills that look like a hedgehog, not gills like many mushrooms. Their light but complex flavor is similar to that of a chanterelle with hints of wood and peat, but their texture is far less dense and chewy. All of this makes the hedgehog mushroom a rare and unusual treat.

There is a simple trick to preparing most fresh, wild mushrooms: you want to cook them fast and hot to sear the skin and warm the flesh. I learned this technique from watching chefs prepare delicate seafood like scallops and salmon. This cooking process takes only a few seconds on each side. Overcooked mushrooms can become tough and lose much of their nuanced flavor. At twenty dollars a pound, I want to get all I can out of each bite!

Seared Hedgehog Mushrooms

1/2 pound hedgehog mushrooms
olive oil

First, clean the mushrooms with a damp paper towel to remove any dirt or debris from the stem, top, and bottom. Using a pair of kitchen shears, remove the stem and reserve it for use in a stock. With the gill side up, drizzle the mushrooms with a little bit of olive oil, sprinkle them with salt, and hit them with a touch of black pepper. Heat a medium skillet over hight heat and then add a few tablespoons of olive oil. Once the oil begins to smoke, lay the mushrooms into the pan gill-side-down and allow them to cook for 30-45 seconds. Using a pair of tongs, turn each mushroom once allowing the top side of the mushroom to cook for another 30 seconds or so. The texture will be slightly crispy at the edges and smooth in the center. Serve on top of pasta, toast, or risotto with some crispy fried shallots.


Bianca said...

I want to know about the saffron risotto! Some really nice folks gave me some saffron for Christmas...

The Chubby Vegetarian said...

Throw a big pinch of saffron threads into 3-4 cups of hot broth. Add it one cup at a time to one cup arborio rice (or sushi rice) and 2 tablespoons of olive oil as you stir. Should take about 20 minutes. Once rice is cooked through, stir in 1/2 cup or more cheese (i used gruyere).