Monday, September 17, 2007

Pied de Mouton, the Hedgehog Mushroom

The French named this mushroom after the shape of the cap, like a mutton's foot, and the English name is about the gills underneath, which look like the spikes of a hedgehog.

I like the symbol in both names, really. The flavor is good and earthy - nutty, mild and shy but at the same time really one of the best mushrooms you can find. In celebrating this wild mushroom, we celebrate that a mushroom doesn't have to be showy or pungent to achieve a certain level of excellence and play its part. Just like the hedgehog doesn't seek the spotlight, and the mutton has plain looking hooves that serve only to carry each member of a grazing ruminous herd, these mushrooms are rather humble but oh so good. They come on the cusp of chanterelles, a simple denouement to the summer, and in the wild they elude mushroom hunters, seeking out dark places in the forest, lining up in strings along the base of conifers. Firm fleshed, their texture and ability to hold up to cooking is what makes them so wonderful. Great with poultry, with cream sauce and simply tossed in butter, these mushrooms shine when a stage is set for them with minimal interference. When gathered small and cooked whole in number, they can cause quite a sensation.

Some people consider these the safest of all mushrooms to gather, since because of their unique gills they are so easily identifiable. Still, in France, pharmacists are trained to identify mushrooms, so you can take what you have gathered in and they will tell you if they are good to eat. This is encouraged and still practiced by the serious pharmacists. If you gather mushrooms in France, ask your pharmacist to check them out.

The gills on the underside of the cap gave them their English name.

The ones that will be making an appearance at our table tonight were gathered on the bank of the Saone, at the market! A precious handful of these firm fleshed little nuggets wrapped in crinkly brown paper took me back a buck. They run a pretty penny then the price drops dramatically when they won't last much longer. I will enjoy them as much as I had taken a walk in the forest and come across them along the path, because catching them at this price is a find indeed.

How will they appear at my table? I will simply crumble them into sizzling foamy butter with a slivered shallot and serve them on toast, to begin. Then I will toss some into the pot with some chicken that I have browned and crispened and then combined with some wilted onions, shallots, pine nuts and spices, and smother them, top tight on the pan, with a splash of white wine, until the juices mingle and caramelize at the bottom. This will be nice with some courgettes.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Welcome home, Lucy, and so quickly back into your delicious stride! Thank you for the postcards while you were away - would it be fun for you to turn them over and show us what you would have written on the back!? Particularly the one of your father's boat. That must be a lovely story? On the other hand maybe you feel it is too personal which, I am sure, we will all understand! Perhaps we should just enjoy the photographs! Angela

6:39 PM, September 18, 2007  
Blogger Katie Zeller said...

Mushroom season! The pharmacists in Andorra provided the same service and I know our local one here does, he's posted a sign... Still, i'm a bit nervous about it and will probably continue to buy mine at market. I'll keep an eye out for these, they sound delicious!
And welcome back! Your postcards were fun!

9:55 PM, September 18, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lucy, you mention your new cookbook by Paul Bocuse. Was this book on your wishlist? I have been following your writings on Egullet ( am Safran) and on your blog and respect your opinion. And do you have many cookbooks?

11:01 PM, September 19, 2007  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Thank you for your comments! Carmen, I actually had a chance to pick it up, not having seen this new edition, I decided at the bookstore. I like the photos, and that M. Bocuse is so Lyonnais. The recipes are simple and it is a good book to have on my shelf, that's for sure.

8:51 AM, September 20, 2007  
Blogger Yank said...

Just a mild word of caution. Our local pharmacist who is normally reliable misidentified a local mushroom picked by a friend. This was about two weeks ago.
He was very ill & had to be taken to hospital. Fortunately he made a quick recovery.
My motto is that if I'm not sure I make sure that BOTH the pharmacist AND a good field guide agree.
Does'r mean that I'm still not overjoyed to find ceps and good old field mushrooms. One day I'll find the magic spot for morelles - I hope!

8:17 PM, September 23, 2007  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Yank, what a horrendous thing to happen to a friend! I hope he wasn't visiting you from abroad when that happened. Imagine the stories he must have to tell. It is extremely rare nonetheless for a trained pharmacist to make a call that lands someone in the hospital.

7:27 PM, September 26, 2007  
Blogger jeanga6 said...

Thank you for the blog on this. I live in Metz. Earlier this week I was in Alsace mushroom hunting with friends. Our friends know mushrooms well. We found Pied de Mouton and chantrelle mushrooms among others. We actually found too many. I have given kilos away...amazing but true. In a search to find how to cook the Moutons, I found you. Tonight we will be trying them on toast. Yummmm The night after that and the night after that? Don't know I do know I might be sick of mushrooms soon if that is possible.

9:12 AM, September 22, 2010  
Blogger Unknown said...

I live in Annecy and just bought a sack load of pied de mouton and chantrelles at our local market. Both are available cheaply and in great abundance right now. Followed your recipe for the chicken more or less and it was just fantastic. I've sauted these 'shrooms before and served with cream over an omelete, but the chicken dish surpassed all expectations. As always, the key is home-made stock.
Best, Flumet

8:53 PM, September 27, 2010  
Blogger L Vanel said...

We also see them in the mountains, and from what you both are describing, there must be tons up there! I cannot wait to get up there this next weekend. Thanks for stopping by and letting me know what you're doing with yours.

9:12 PM, September 27, 2010  

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