lacteres-ready-to-washLiving in France has overturned some of my long-held principles, including but not limited to a strong opposition to mushrooms.

market-de-parisGrowing up, mushrooms were those rubbery bits that came out of a can, often in a thick, white “cream” sauce. They squeaked when you bit them. Irredeemably revolting.

market-pleuroteI eventually made peace with raw mushrooms, and then opened up to others. (Chanterelles? YES. Truffles? Double YES.) The variety of mushrooms here is just amazing. According to the Société Mycologique de France, the country has 1,384 edible mushroom varieties out of about 16,000 species; 514 are toxic or deadly. The society has a semi-useful chart that matches the scientific name with the common French name.

market-2We play it safe and buy our mushrooms at the market. Our No. 1 favorite, shown in the top photo, are the lactaires, also known as roussillous or russulacées, or, more specifically, the lactaire délicieux. Yup. The Latin name is Lactarius deliciosus, so it’s official.

market

market-box-of-wine
Mushrooms in the foreground … and what do we spy atop the crates just beyond? Why it’s a box of wine!

If you think the name sounds related to milk, you are right–they emit a milky substance when the cap or spores are broken. Since the name of the Milky Way in French is la voie lactée, somehow my mind puts these mushrooms amid the stars, which I find fitting, because they are heaven on a plate.

market-3

There are a couple of ways to cook lactaires: straight up in butter or in a persillade of chopped parsley, garlic and butter. Here’s how:

lactere-mushrooms

Step 1: Clean them. You might notice that the wild mushrooms pictured above have pine needles and grass and dirt on them. Wipe off the tops with a damp paper towel and gently brush the underneath. Be gentle! Set them out to dry.

Step 2: cut off the bottoms of the stems. You can chop up the rest of the steps to cook.

lacteres-start-to-cook
Team Just Butter. See the bits of stem? More goodness.

Step 3.: Make your persillade, if you’re going that route: Finely chop a small bunch of parsley and a couple of garlic cloves.

lactere-mushrooms-cooking
Team Persillade.

Step 4: Melt some butter (don’t be stingy) in a frying pan over medium heat. Prepare yourself for amazing fragrance. They smell a little like a white cake baking. They don’t taste sweet, but the flavor is delicate. Cook stem-side up. Don’t turn.

lacteres-in-the-pan

They’re done when they’re hot and have browned ever so slightly. We had them with pan-fried steak, roasted tomatoes (we still get garden tomatoes!) and little grenaille potatoes.

What you see in the pan above set us back about €4 (they were €13 per kilo, down from €14 the week before).

And now for a few beautiful, but not-for-humans, mushroom marvels:

wild-white

The next one looked for all the world like a Thumbelina version of a chopped-down tree:

wild-flat-front-view
top view
wild-flat-side-view
Side view

This one was also very flat, but the top glowed translucent, like polished stone:

wild-flat-gray

While these might not be comestible, it looked like somebody had been nibbling:

wild-black-closewild-very-black

wild-black

So many kinds…

wild-beige

A tiny, perfect globe.

wild-little-button

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36 thoughts on “Yum! Fungus Among Us

  1. Actually the first of your ‘not for human consumption’ examples is edible and number 4 if it’s what I think it is (although I’d hesitate to positively ID it based on a photo). I go out at least two or three times in the autumn with my local mycology group. It’s a lot of fun and the old guys who are the serious experts are just amazing. I feel like I need to use them before I lose them, sadly. The pied bleu in one of your market shots grow wild here too, but I don’t bother with them. They are nicer from the mushroom growers who operate out of a troglo cave (no risk of the mushrooms being parasitised by flies or having accumulated heavy metals or radio active substances, unlike the wild ones).

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      1. The white one looked to me like a fuzzy Dalek. Did you check to see if it had little feet underneath? Or arms with suction-cup hands.
        Those are all amazing pictures.

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  2. Sadly I am still deeply mystified by the huge range of mushrooms here. I do love buying direct the plain old Paris version from the mushroom lady who grows them. I made the fatal error of buying Picard’s frozen melange of special mushrooms. Not good. Too mushy and tasteless.
    I have learned to love sea snails (bulot) so I not a complete French foodie naff :((

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  3. When I see them growing under our trees or on the prato I do not have the courage to even touch them. Would that I knew more about those delicious morsels. We had a friend who used to bring back wonderful morels from Switzerland. I assume they are in the mushroom family. Do you know???

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      1. No…did not have those….but lots of others. I never imagined that there could be so many different flavors.
        The planning and dreaming will start as soon as we unpack. Arrived home this afternoon.

        Ali

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  4. Ha ha yes – I detested mushrooms when I was a child in England, they really were slimy and squeaky! Tiny, evil button ones in a can. Mums never really knew what to do with them. Horrible in a 1980s cold rice salad with sweetcorn. But this makes me want to go home and root in the cupboards for the old bag of porcini that I have somewhere and fry some up (that’s all I have right now in the way of fungi). Those lactaires in butter look so good, I can almost smell them.

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  5. I hated mushrooms too as a child. I was invited out for an impromptu meal when I was at uni and the quick meal that was prepared was mushroom omelettes. I swallowed the mushrooms bits whole and pretended that all was good with the world. Strangely enough, I, too, now love them. I remain wary of them, though, and would never have the confidence to touch or pick in the wild.

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  6. Thank you for always having the most interesting posts! The mushrooms look delicious!

    I miss the great variety of mushrooms in Europe, although I admit I’m not a fan of all of them. Here, I usually get a few varieties, my latest favorite is the enoki, those tiny, small little mushrooms that grow in huge clumps. They make a fabulous omelet!

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