I have a problem. Not a big problem, in fact, it’s not even a bad problem – just one of those nagging life issues which force a man to call on his or her creative juices – just the kind of thing that has, for millions of years, separated us from our mammalian friends and relatives.
My problem is simply this – over a period of two weeks, I have collected and processed the bulk of 8+ gallons of wild mushrooms -primarily chanterelles- for the freezer – that’s a lot of mushrooms. It’s enough mushrooms that one risks using only one or two ways of preserving them, and then tiring of the “sameness” of them when later put to their eventual use.
My basic way of preparing them for the freezer is something called “dry saute”, which is just a red hot, bare pan, into which you toss about a pound of mushrooms, and move them around until they have given up their liquid and cooked down in size by some 2/3rds – dry saute is a bit of a misnomer, since it’s a pretty “wet” process. Yes, I do process some by introducing some butter into this process – but since I could just as easily introduce the butter later when using my thawed dry sauteed mushrooms, I consider either of these preps one and the same. Whatever.
The only other process I use for freezer prep is to use Lydia Bastianich’s wonderful and simple sauce – this is a very different way to process the chanterelles, and although it is a great way, and a creates a super dish, it is a bit limiting in the ways the mushrooms can be used in a resulting way. Still, I consider it a basic process, and at least ¼ of my mushrooms get processed this way each year.
So, I’ve been on the lookout for an additional but simple way I could process some of the pickins, and I think I’ve found a good one – roasting!
I’ve always rejected roasting chanterelles because, as anyone who has tried drying them knows, when chanterelles dry, they turn to something quite similar to leather – this is not appetizing, nor is it eatable. But, I kept seeing recipes on the net for roasted chanterelles, so thought I’d give it a try.
I was delighted with the outcome!
The recipe I used – actually a compilation of ideas, here, and here – was to simply clean and split large chanterelles (the larger the better, since a good deal of the mushroom “disappears” in the process of roasting, and you risk having all char and no body of the mushroom left), marinate them in balsamic vinegar(my idea), olive oil, and salt, and roasting them at a very high temp until their edges blacken and crisp. This gives the chanterelles a delightful texture, with a crispy edge and a chewy interior – and the mushroom’s delicate flavor is not overshadowed by the vinegar, but is in fact, enhanced by the roasting (I think this is so because most of the minimal amount of vinegar used is washed off when the mushroom exudes it’s water content).
If you don’t have chanterelles, you may use any kind of mushroom. Here’s the formal recipe:
Balsamic Marinated Roasted Mushrooms
- 1 lb. mushrooms (any mushrooms can be used – if larger than a half dollar, split them)
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- 2 Tbs. balsamic or red wine vinegar
- 1 Tbs. Kosher salt
- Preheat oven to 475 F – If you have convection, use it, but set temp at 450 F or so.
- Clean mushrooms, and try to use mushrooms of similar size, so that they will roast consistently.
- If your mushrooms are large, you may wish to split them – I had huge chanterelles, and for visual effect they needed to be split.
- Place mushrooms in a large bowl, and sprinkle the vinegar, oil, and salt over them.
- Toss the mushrooms in the marinade to try to distribute it among the mushroom pieces.
- Allow to marinate for 15 minutes, tossing the mushrooms every five minutes.
- Place the mushrooms on a rack in a sheet pan in a single layer – the pan must have sides to contain the liquid that will cook out of the mushrooms (I can get about 2 lbs of mushrooms in a 1/2 size baker’s sheet pan).
- Slip the pan(s) into the oven for 10 – 15 minutes (the time will depend on the size of your mushrooms – if yours are smaller, reduce the time and check on them often).
- Carefully pull the pan from the oven and flip the mushrooms over – the pan will have a lot of liquid at this point – you may wish to remove that liquid now, because if you let it cook away, you may have a tough cleaning job ahead, and the liquid could be used in sauces or soup if you save it.
- Return the pan to the oven for an additional 8 – 12 minutes, again, depending on the size of the mushrooms – you want them to have crisp edges with lots of brown.
- At the end of the time, or anytime they look like they may be done, try one – Delicious? They’re done!
Now, there’s nothing sacred about this recipe – it’s the process which is more rigid. Feel free to change the recipe as you wish – and you may discover some even nicer results – You can bet I’ll play with it. I think both of my links above suggest doing so. No reason why the addition of garlic wouldn’t be interesting – or trying it without vinegar – or with some fresh or dried herbs – the options are endless!
For those of you who -like me- suspected that roasting may turn the chanterelle to leather, I did not experience that! I believe that enough of the mushroom’s internal moisture is retained to avoid this potential, and perhaps the intense heat does its magic so quickly that the chanterelle does not have a chance to react. And I have now had a chance to use some frozen roasted chants and can report that they cook up nicely – much as they did right from the roaster – it works!
But I think the major reason why I like roasting mushrooms is because roasting retains much of the mushroom’s visual appeal – frankly, sauteing always cooks down the mushroom to the point that a chanterelle has lost it’s identity – Roasting not only allows diners to see the beauty of the chanterelle, but imparts a diverse mouth-feel that is lacking in a sauteed mushroom. These would be simply spectacular as an addition to a creamed vegetable dish, or adorning a sauced chicken or seafood creation. Or, how about a white sauced pizza with garlic, bacon, and these beauties peeking out? Nice.
Yup. Roasted mushrooms will join my short list of ways to prep my shrooms for freezing – it’s a definite winner.