And now the moment you've all been waiting for: the menu produced from our excellent fall foraging adventure:
1. watercress salad with roasted chestnuts and local brabander cheese from Fallsdale Farms
I confess, I forgot to photograph this course. Anyone who's eaten with me knows I get excited when anticipating deliciousness. In my excitement I tend to pick up a fork instead of a camera. We're fortunate to have the Barrett's cheeses at our farmers' market, but lucky New Yorkers can find brabander at Saxelby Cheese Mongers in the Essex Street Market. It's strong and sharp and holds its own against the peppery cress.
2. Hen of the Woods soup w/pig jowl bacon bits (from Lucky Penny Farm) & home-made linden flower wine
We sauteed the Hen of the Woods (aka maitake) in stock & butter with garlic & a little thyme, then pulsed a few times in the food processor and added cream, S & P to taste.
3. Chicken of the Woods mushrooms sauteed with onions, cream, and a little sherry
We sauteed the onions in olive oil till they were transparent, then added bite sized bits of chicken of the woods. This mushroom needs to cook for a while to soften, so we added stock and let it simmer for about 25 minutes, then finished with cream, tarragon, & a swirl of sherry.
4. roasted hopniss tubers & boiled evening primrose roots
The hopniss knocked my socks off. Sam Thayer describes the taste as somewhere between peanut and potato and he is right on! Roasted, they have a fluffy, nutty taste that I can't get out of my mind; I want more. The evening primrose roots were less captivating: boiled and served with butter, S & P. The next night I sliced the left overs and fried them with onions in a little olive oil...much tastier, but what isn't better with onions and olive oil?
6. steamed pawpaw/spicebush pudding
I know this isn't a beautiful photo but the dessert knocked my socks off and I'm a dessert connoisseur (not much of a food stylist though). Mark brought the pawpaw with him from KY, where the fruit is more familiar and better appreciated. What an extraordinary taste and texture: creamy, rich, and tropical. Pawpaw combines wonderfully with the peppery sweetness of spicebush and because the pudding is steamed in a covered mold, it's dense and moist and out of this world.
It's hard work being a hunter-gatherer, but the rewards are great.