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Category Archives: mushrooms

Roasted Grouse With Mushrooms

Make your own cream of mushroom sauce (and add bacon and whiskey) for this classic grouse recipe

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Ask any deer camp old-timer for a foolproof recipe, and you’re likely to encounter a lot of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup. There is a reason for that: Mushrooms plus cream plus game meat adds up to a perfect trinity of flavors. This recipe chucks the can, and all its high-sodium gloppiness, while retaining the earthy comfort that made mushrooms and cream the go-to sauce for generations of hunters.

Ingredients

Grouse:
4 grouse
4 Tbsp. butter, softened
8 strips bacon

Sauce:

2 Tbsp. butter
20 oz. cremini or wild mushrooms, trimmed and sliced thin (morels, chanterelles, or a mix of wild and cultivated would be good)
1 shallot, minced
1 cup rich chicken stock (or defatted drippings from the pan)
3 sprigs thyme
12 cup cream (or crème fraîche)
(or)

1 Tbsp. bourbon
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS

1. ROAST THE GROUSE: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Rinse the birds, pat dry, then smear each with a tablespoon of softened butter. Generously salt and pepper, inside and out. Wrap 2 bacon slices around each grouse, then set them in a roasting pan. Roast in the oven until the grouse is browned, about 25 minutes. Remove to a plate and let rest, covered loosely in tinfoil, while you make the sauce.

2. MAKE THE SAUCE: Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and about 1/2 tsp. salt and sauté, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms release a lot of moisture and begin to smell fragrant, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add the shallot. Sauté until soft, and until most of the moisture has gone out of the pan, about 4 minutes. Add the stock (or defatted drippings from the roasting pan) and thyme sprigs and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Pour in the cream and bourbon and simmer until the sauce thickens, about 3–5 minutes.

3. TO SERVE, spoon the sauce onto four plates, and rest a grouse in the center of each. Sprinkle thyme over the grouse. SERVES 4

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ID the Morel – Spring’s Best Mushroom

When the spring gobbler season and shed hunting is in full swing, you’ll probably spending a lot of time in the woods looking at the ground for antlers and turkey sign. Something else you ought to be on the lookout for is a weird little pitted thing that looks like a small, lumpy, brown brain. This time of year, that organism is most likely a common morel mushroom, a popular item of spring foragers. Here’s how to properly identify this delectable fungus.

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ID a Morel
The common morel (Morchella esculenta) is a prized wild mushroom that grows in forests and shady areas, primarily in April and May. These mushrooms are usually 2 to 4 inches tall. The tan, gray, or brownish colored head with irregular pitting is well camouflaged against leaf litter. If you cut the mushroom completely in half, it should be entirely hollow inside. Look carefully for the cone-shaped head to be fully fused to the stalk at the lower end.

mush2If the head is only attached at the top, and hangs like a skirt, you are probably looking at a false morel, which can be very poisonous. False morels (the genera Verpa and Gyromitra) usually grow in the summer and fall, which are great times to avoid anything resembling a morel. Another way to properly ID an edible morel is to make a spore print, which, for a common morel is yellowish. Here’s how do that.

Make a Spore Print
1. Handle your foraged mushrooms carefully, and assume that any unidentified mushroom is deadly. Get the whole thing if possible, but the cap is the part you need for spore prints.

2. Wrap each individual mushroom in wax paper or a piece of aluminum foil for transport. Plastic bags will make them sweat, and putting multiple mushrooms in a bag can create confusion.

3. Place the mushroom cap gills-down on a piece of white paper and set a cup or bowl over it. Allow it to sit several hours or, better yet, overnight.

4. Remove the cover and lift the mushroom cap. Observe the color of the spores that were deposited, and use that color for identification. Some mushrooms deposit white spores, which are hard to see on the white paper. Set a strong flashlight beside the paper, shining across the surface, to assist in your identification of pure white spores. Check this color against several guides, and double-check the mushroom’s structures against similar mushrooms to ensure that you have the right mushroom ID.

How is the morel hunting in your area so far this spring? Have you ever had a bad run-in with a misidentified mushroom?

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