Nothing is so delightful as coming upon one of these combinations, where a few simple ingredients meld in a delicious and unexpectedly special fashion. I felt like this when I learned about Mudjadarrah, and when I first baked an egg inside a tomato. Jane Grigson was a person with an especially fine nose for this sort of thing, and I am very attached to my shabby, dog-eared Penguin edition of her Good Things, from 1973.*
If you live in Pittsburgh, you should take note: The Giant Eagle has been offering beautiful fresh oyster mushrooms at $5.99 per pound. They are not at all heavy-so you can get masses of them quite cheaply, and they are gorgeous. (They also have nice fresh shitakes for only a dollar more per pound-but that is a more common occurence.) I have been eating the oyster mushrooms like crazy, afraid they will disappear, or go up to $15.99 per pound, like the other wild ones. I have had them sauteed on toast for breakfast, cooked with onions and mixed with rice and pinenuts to stuff cabbage, grilled with a lambchop, tucked in an omelet, and in a barley soup.
It was from Ms. Grigson that I got the idea for this simple combination that really knocks my socks off.In a chapter titled "Edible Woodland Mushrooms" (the oyster mushroom [Pleurotus ostreatus] is one such- it "grows out of trees such as ash and beech in a cluster of soft shelves"), she suggested a method for cooking mushrooms with potatoes, which while quite simple, resulted in the potatoes taking on a good bit of mushroomy flavor. The method I used is even simpler, and had a similar result. Given the usual expense involved with wild mushrooms, it is especially handy to have a method for cooking them which stretches them out.
This is what I did, and I would be very surprised if it did not work as well with a handful of morels, chanterelles, or other precious fungal booty. The Mushroom Lady must have been watching over me. Take some small potatoes-fingerlings or just little yukons or redskins, not much bigger than golfballs, and scrub, but don't peel them. Cut them in half. Toss them with olive oil, salt, pepper, several coarsely chopped cloves of garlic, and rosemary (fresh if possible), and put them in a metal pan in a preheated 475F oven. Roast them until they are starting to get brown and crusty- maybe 20-25 minutes, shaking them from time to time to prevent sticking. (But my oven is slow- so do watch it.)
Put some wild mushrooms, chopped very coarsely, or whole, if small- approximately the same amount as the potatoes (area-wise-they will, of course, be much lighter in weight) into a medium sized bowl and toss with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Take the pan out of the oven, add the mushrooms, and toss or gently stir it all up well. Put it back in and cook until the potatoes are done and the mushrooms have browned. This will probably be about 10 more minutes.
Serve, sprinkled with some chopped parsley. The potatoes will have taken on a lovely mushroomy flavor. So very good. If you had these with, say, some slow scrambled eggs with cream, or greens with a vinagrette, you would be really flying high. It is also quite nice just to eat them plain.
I've never had an actual truffle, but I suspect the effect I've read about, where they perfume other foods on contact, must be similar to what happens here. Pretty cool. I am such a fool for fungi, I do hope someday to have, just once, my very own truffle to play with. Maybe I could write a grant proposal requesting the award of a truffle for uh, experimental purposes?
*You lucky people- at last there is a reprint!