Hunting for mushrooms is a treat, definitely not a trick
My Halloween trick or treating came early this year. My treat was going with West Linn resident Elan Hagens, owner of Temptress Truffles, on a wild mushroom hunting excursion.
You might have met Elan at the West Linn, Irvington or Portland State University farmers markets this summer. She is every bit what her name suggests; her enthusiasm and exuberance for life are hard to match.
How this inner city Portland native developed a love of the outdoors is an interesting tale. Elan's mother didn't drive but made sure Elan took advantage of every opportunity to get out to the fields and forests. She planted trees when she was six and went to camp for a week when she was seven or eight. She loved the smell of the campfire, rain and Douglas fir trees.
Her educational path included middle school at the Sunnyside Environmental School.
In college Elan dove into public health and pre-med courses. Somewhere along the line, she acquired Kinji, her 100-pound giant schnauzer, who naturally required a serious daily walk. So Elan found herself spending time once again in the great outdoors, training her dog and hiking the forests, where she discovered mushrooms and in particular, truffles.
She mused about how to combine her love of the outdoors with her passion for dogs and mushrooms and viola! Temptress Truffles was born. Elan loves sharing her knowledge about mushrooms, the outdoors and dogs with others.
She recently organized a Fall Mushroom Hunt and Wild Mushroom Tour at the Hopkins Demonstration Forest east of Oregon City. About 16 of us met her at the forest for a early morning expedition focused on fungi.
After giving us an introduction on the wonder of mushrooms, Elan turned us over to her colleague, Jordan Weiss, another mushroom genius, who led us on our expedition. We hiked along a roadway for some time. I lost track of time and distance because we stopped whenever we spied mushrooms. They are literally all over! On our hike, which I am guessing covered about a mile and a half, we discovered more than 40 varieties of mushrooms. Of that 40, only two were edible. The others, though maybe not poisonous, were not considered worth eating.
Jordan taught us that mushrooms are found all across the world and each mushroom has a job to do. Mushrooms can be saprophytic (feeding on dead remains), parasitic (feeding on live organisms) or symbiotic (live in or on other living organisms) growths.
'Every day is different in mushroom hunting,' he said.
While we were hunting with Jordan, Elan was busy cooking a mushroom feast at the shelter with her friend Brett. They prepared a fondue of mushroom gravy into which we dipped roasted new potatoes, tiny biscuits and sausages. We sprinkled Elan's homemade truffle salt and pepper on scrambled eggs, drank coffee and enjoyed freshly made pumpkin bread and huckleberry muffins and fresh fruits. It was a delicious feast to enjoy in the forest with newfound friends sharing a new hobby.
Jordan and Elan are just part of the community hoping to make more of us aware of the mushrooms around us. They will be teaching a variety of classes through the winter and next spring. Jordan is most interested in teaching people to cultivate wild mushrooms. Elan is talking about teaching people to train their dogs to hunt truffles. If you want to learn more about Temptress Truffles and the courses coming up, visit www.temptresstruffles.com. You can also friend Elan Hagens on Facebook and catch her tweets at OregonTruffles on Twitter.
One of the new friends I met on the mushroom hunting tour was Kele Kai-Roberts of West Linn. We talked about the many delicious foods you can create with mushroom. She is particularly fond of Gubanc's Mushroom Soup.
Gubanc's Chef Joe Buck was happy to share the recipe, so here it is, Kele, especially for you. No tricks involved, just a nice treat for Halloween!
Bon Appetit! Eat something wonderful!
Gubanc's Cream of Mushroom Soup
The Gubanc's recipe for cream of mushroom soup calls for a two-day process and certain ingredients not readily sourced in the grocery store. Here we provide a home-friendly version of the actual recipe, which uses ingredients available from any local store and a process respectful of most busy schedules. For better flavor, you may choose to modify this recipe by substituting a homemade mushroom stock for the purchased broth.
3 quarts purchased mushroom broth
2½ lbs whole medium-sized mushrooms (use what you like, wild or cultivated), washed
5 cups sliced medium-sized mushrooms
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup all purpose flour
3 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons Worchester sauce
¾ teaspoon black pepper
¾ teaspoon white pepper
1 ½ teaspoon mustard powder
1 ½ teaspoon onion powder
1 ½ teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoon dried dill
1 ½ teaspoon dried thyme
Salt to taste
Bring mushroom broth and whole mushrooms to a boil in a medium-sized soup pot. Reduce the heat and simmer partially covered for approximately 2 hours. Remove the pot from the heat and puree the contents, using either a immersion blender or regular blender. Use caution when blending hot liquids in a regular blender by blending in several batches and always pulsing several times before blending the mixture on medium speed until mushrooms are pureed. (Note: this may be done up to one day beforehand. Store mixture covered in refrigerator.)
Combine black pepper, white pepper, mustard powder, onion powder, garlic powder, dried dill and dried thyme in a bowl. Pour olive oil into the bottom of a medium sized soup pot and turn heat to medium-high. Add 2 cups of the sliced mushrooms and the seasoning mixture. Stir mushroom and seasonings off and on for 5 minutes with a whisk until the mushrooms are cooked. Add more olive oil if mixture becomes dry. Add the pureed mushroom mixture to the pot and stir to combine. Continue to cook the mixture over medium-high heat.
In the meantime, make a roux by melting the butter in a medium saucepan over moderate heat. Add the flour and whisk well. Continue to cook the roux for a few minutes then reduce the heat to low. Add the heavy cream to the soup pot and bring the soup to just below a boil. Once well heated, add the roux and whisk well to incorporate. The soup will thicken as it continues to heat, but do not allow the soup to boil. Add the Worchester sauce and remaining sliced mushrooms and continue to cook until mushrooms are soft. Add salt to your taste.
Chef Joseph Buck, Gubanc's Restaurant