Marinated Artichoke Hearts

I know, I’ve posted this before but artichokes are back in season so I want to repost it.

Artichokes, boy do we have a lot of them! Sometimes we’ve got as much as 20lbs of them languishing in the refrigerator. And really, you can only eat them boiled, steamed or barbequed so many times. So I needed to do something with them before we had to throw them out. Preserving them seemed to be the best option. Little did I know that preserving them would get us to eat them even faster! Of the 4 quarts we canned, only one remains 2 weeks later.

I started with Hank Shaw’s Pickled Artichoke recipe but made a couple of changes based on my personal preferences and what we had on hand. This recipe creates a very refreshing and bright flavor that you just want to keep eating.

Marinated Artichokes – makes 4 quarts
15-20lbs of small artichokes
2 cups lemon juice
4 cups apple cider vinegar – 5% acidity
2 cups grapeseed oil
5 sliced garlic cloves
10 dried chili halves
6 tbs salt
1/4 cup sugar
4 lemons, halved

1. Combine all ingredients but artichokes and halved lemons in a stockpot and bring to a boil.
2. Remove tough, outer leaves of artichokes, trim, cut in half and scoop out choke. Rub with the lemons to keep from oxidizing and put in a bowl.
3. Put artichoke halves in boiling liquid and return to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes.
4. Pack into sterilized quart jars until 3/4s full and top off with hot liquid leaving 1/2″ headspace. Screw on lid until finger tight.
5. Process in a water bath canner for 25 minutes. Remove from canner and allow to cool.

Trust me, once you crack open a jar it won’t last for very long. This is now my favorite way to eat artichokes.

Cajun Spiced Crab Cakes

Every Christmas Eve we have a crab feed at my house. This year was a bit different because Tom and Junior actually went out and caught the crab for the dinner table. They had great luck catching 6 rock crabs and 6 large Dungeness crabs. More than enough for 5 people, one of which wasn’t interested in eating any crab. Eventually we’ll get Junior to enjoy it.

Th first few that were caught

Every year, even when we buy crab, we always have some left over. This year was no exception. My mom always made crab cakes the next day with what was leftover, but of course she’s in Ohio so it was my turn to try my hand at them. Having never made them before I was a bit nervous. But in the end I was really happy with them. So here’s how you can do it too.

1 lb Dungeness Crab meat

1 Egg

2 tsp Cajun Seasoning

1/2 cup Mayonnaise

1 tsp Hot Pepper Sauce

1/4 cup Oats

1 Tbs Lemon Juice

3 Tbs Safflower Oil

Remove all the crab meat from the shell. Grind the oats up. I like to use a coffee grinder as it gets them fairly fine. Add everything except the oil in a bowl.

I made the mayonnaise from scratch. I find that the commercial stuff is a bit too strong when I add it to stuff. I’m not sure what the strong flavor is, but I don’t much care for it. The homemade mayo is much milder and what is left you can use to make an accompanying aioli. Also feel free to add more hot sauce if you wish. A teaspoon doesn’t add much heat at all but rather just builds on the flavor profile.

I was surprised when I mixed this all together just how runny the batter was. Because it had egg in it though it should be able to bind well.

In a hot skillet add the oil over medium high heat and drop spoonfuls of the “batter.” Flatten them with the back of the spoon and then cook until browned. Gently flip and continue to cook until the other side is browned.

Pull the crab cakes out and place on paper towels to allow to drain. Keep them in a warm oven while you cook the rest of the cakes. Serve the crab cakes with any sauce that you would prefer. We like to eat ours with more hot sauce.

Monday’s Guests – Rabbit Liver Pate

Today’s post comes from Kitty over at Havenscourt Homestead. She graciously gave us some of this delicious pate this weekend to try out. I’m a fan of liver in general sauteed up with some garlic – yum! But if you don’t like eating liver you may still like pate. 
Rabbit Liver Pate
Mention liver to most people and you’re bound to get one oftwo answers:  YUMor ICK!  In my experience, liver has had moreof an ick factor.  I’m not sure why.  I think it’s just a texture thing along witha very strong flavor.  Or maybe it’s becauseI grew up with a father that loved to coat liver with flour and cook it withonions, then expect us children to eat that awful smelly stuff.  What can I say?  I was a kid. I didn’t like broccoli either.
Enter adulthood and I discovered pate.  Mmmmm… Rich, smooth, creamy, deliciouspate.  I immediately loved it.  Little did I know it was basically my fathersliver and onions pureed and served cold with crackers.  But pate is expensive in the store, so Ididn’t eat it too often. 
Fast forward to my homestead.  Now that I raise the bulk of my own meat, Ihave lots of liver.  Putting it in thestock pot with the bones and such just seemed to be a waste.  So I decided it was time to try my hand athomemade pate.  Liver is verynutritious.  It’s a good source ofThiamin, Zinc and Manganese, and a very good source of Protein, Vitamin A,Vitamin C, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, PantothenicAcid, Iron, Phosphorus, Copper and Selenium. 
After searching the internet for recipes, I settled on onefrom Hoyt Archery.  It seemed simple andcontained herbs that I like and had on hand. I especially liked that it called for soaking the liver in milk.  I had heard that this made the liver muchbetter tasting.  And I just happened tohave fresh raw goat milk in the refrigerator. Of course I also had 2-1/2 lbs of fresh rabbit liver, much more than therecipe called for.  So I multiplied allthe ingredients by 2-1/2 and got down to it. 
1pound liver
1 cup milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup brandy
Place the liver and milk into a bowl.  Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.  I actually let mine soak overnight.  When you are ready to start cooking, put theliver in a colander and drain well.
In a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat melt fourtablespoons of butter with one tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the onions and cook, stirring often,until they are soft and pale.  You don’twant to brown them.  Once the onions aresoft, add the minced garlic and cook until fragrant.  Again, do not brown it.  You just want the wonderful aroma.  This should only take a minute or two.
Carefully add the liver to the onions.  Then add in your spices.  This recipe uses thyme and bay leaves.  But you could use just about any spice youlike.  I tend to cut the salt in halfwhen I cook.  I find that most recipesdon’t need as much as they call for.  IfI feel something needs more salt when I’m done, it’s easy enough to season itafterwards.
Gently stir and sauté until the liver is browned on theoutside, but still slightly pink in the inside. I test this by simply slicing a bit of the liver using the slotted spoonI’m cooking with.  At this point, Ithought it smelled wonderful.  I wasready to grab a fork.  I honestly don’tknow why I didn’t enjoy this aroma when I was a kid.
Once browned, remove the skillet from the heat.  Pour on the brandy.  Don’t forget to have a nip for yourself!  Return the skillet to the heat and light thebrandy.  *POOF* Flambé!  What can I say?  I’m a pyromaniac.  I love to flambé!  Besides, the flames only last for a minute orso until the alcohol is burned off.  Butif you have guests that have never seen it, they’ll be most impressed.
Continue to cook until most of the liquid hasevaporated.  The liver should be cookedthrough, but it should still be tender. Again, test it by slicing into it to make sure it’s brownthroughout.  Remove the skillet from theheat and allow the liver and onions to cool slightly.  Remove the bay leaves.
Carefully spoon the liver and onions into a foodprocessor.  Depending upon the size, youmay have to do this in batches.  Pureethe mixture until smooth.  Cut theremaining butter into small pieces and add them to the pate.  Pulse to blend.  Don’t worry about over processing at thispoint.  You want everything to be smoothand blended together.
Taste your creation. If you need to adjust any of the seasonings, now is the time to doit.  Just be sure to pulse the mixture tomake sure any additions are thoroughly blended in.
Before packing your pate into a mold or other container, oilthe mold with a little olive oil.  Thishelps to prevent it from sticking.  Youcan also use plastic wrap.  Since I had avery large batch, I used a 9” loaf pan. I lined it with plastic wrap and then used a paper towel to wipe theinside with olive oil.  Next, cover thepate with plastic wrap, pressing it down onto the surface to eliminate as muchair as possible.  Air will cause thesurface to discolor.   This doesn’t hurtthe flavor or freshness of the pate.  Itjust doesn’t look as nice.  Pop it intothe refrigerator until it is firm, at least 6 hours.
One great thing about pate is that it freezes well.  So if you’ve made a large batch like I did,simply slice it up, seal it, and freeze it. I have a vacuum sealer.  If youare freezing any meats, I highly recommend buying one.  It sucks all the air out of the package andseals it up perfectly for freezing.  Imade each package about 4-5 ounces which is a good serving size forentertaining.
To serve, simply unmold it onto a plate and addgarnish.  Pate is great with crackers,flat bread, or toast.  Serve it with yourfavorite cheese and a glass of wine. Once you realize how quick and simple it is to make, you’ll never takepotato salad to a potluck again!

Making Rabbit Sausage

Mmmmm, rabbit

 We’ve got so much rabbit and so very little freezer space right now, with more rabbits on the way. We needed to do something with all this rabbit and let’s face it, I’m getting a little tired of just braising it.

Rabbit’s a very lean meat and can be quite tough if it’s not cooked right, which usually means either cooked very quickly or cooked for a very long time at a low heat. Since Tom is rather squeamish about rare or even medium rare meat, we have to go with the long cook time.

Grinding is a great way to deal with tough meats

However, there is another way you can prepare tough meat. Tough cuts from any animal whether it’s beef, pork or rabbit lend themselves very well to grinding.

Not really wanting to make rabbit burgers and being that the current Charcutepalooza challenge is stuffed sausages I decided that rabbit would be the meat of choice for this challenge.

Pork fatback

But of course it wouldn’t just be rabbit. Because sausage needs 25-30% fat I needed to add pork fatback. But I didn’t stop there. My goal was a very flavorful sausage so it had to have asiago cheese and porcini mushrooms. But wait! It needed something more! Garlic! Yes garlic.

Unfortunately, Tom proclaimed that it smelled like a foot. He said the cheese smelled like a foot. The mushrooms smelled like a foot and now the fridge smells like a foot. Tom does NOT like stinky cheese, which, in my opinion, is quite a shame. I’m hoping this recipe works for him.

Unfortunately we’re out of fresh garlic, but we have some really good dried garlic. So here’s my recipe:

Rabbit Sausage with Porcinis, Asiago and Garlic

2 Whole Rabbits (3-3 1/2 lbs each), deboned and cut into 1/2″ chunks
1 1/4 lb pork fatback, cut into chunks
1/2 lb Asiago cheese, cut into chunks
1.5 oz dried porcini mushrooms
3 Tbs dried minced garlic
3 Tbs Kosher salt
10+ feet of pork casings (optional)

1. Rehydrate mushrooms in 2 cups hot (not boiling) water. Put mushrooms in water into fridge overnight to chill.

2. Drain mushrooms reserving 1 cup of liquid. Return liquid to fridge.

3. Combine everything but the liquid in a large bowl and put in freezer until very cold, just short of freezing solid. Also freeze the detachable parts of meat grinder that will be coming into contact with the meat.

4. Reassemble meat grinder and run meat mixture through and into a bowl set in ice (I use the bowl to our stand mixer). I use the smallest die that came with the grinder.

5. Using my stand mixer (mine is the smaller Kitchen Aid mixer so I have to do this in batches), I quickly mix half of the ground meat adding 1/2 fo the reserved mushroom liquid to evenly distribute the spices. I repeat with the second half and then combine it all in one large bowl. Don’t overmix or you’ll end up with an emulsified sausage – mix just enough to distribute everything evenly.

6. Cook a small patty to check and adjust seasonings as needed. Return to the freezer to chill again.

7. You can choose to stop here and use it to make breakfast sausage or you can stuff it into casings.

I have to admit, or more like my husband has to admit, smelling like a foot can sometimes be a very good thing. The porcinis I feel are a bit overpowered by the garlic and asiago though, so I think next time I’ll save my money and omit them.

So what did we do with the sausages? We’ve added them to spaghetti sauce and lasagna. We’ve eaten them on homemade rolls with homemade sauerkraut and eaten them as snacks when out and about. I even add them to soup. Sometimes you don’t need a special recipe to use them because they are the special recipe.

Fried Green Tomatoes

I always wanted to make these after watching that movie, but I never got around to it until I had them at a friend’s house last year. This is a good way to use up all those green tomatoes that are left over when it gets too cold to turn them red. There are several different versions I have tried, with varying results, so feel free to experiment and see what works best for your taste buds!

Fried Green Tomatoes – Fried
5 large green tomatoes, or about 2-3 lbs worth
2-3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
1 cup (maybe a little more) bread crumbs
(I use Italian bread crumbs, but that is up to you)
1 tsp salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder (or garlic salt and eliminate the salt) Or you can use your favorite spice mixture.
(optional) about 4 cups water and 1/2 cup vinegar
Enough oil in a pan to be about 1/2 inch deep

Slice tomatoes evenly (1/2 inch to 1/4 inch think) and either set aside, or let soak in the water-vinegar mixture for about an hour. Put oil in pan and heat up to frying temperature (med-hi) Don’t let it smoke! Mix spices into flour and set aside in a bowl or on a deep plate. Beat the eggs and milk together and set aside. Put bread crumbs in a bowl or on a deep plate. Coat tomato slices in flour mixture, then dip in egg mixture, and coat with bread crumbs. Then place in hot oil for about 3 minutes, then flip slices over so that each side is a nice golden brown. Once golden brown, take out with tongs and place on paper towels or a drainer to drain off oil. Serve hot, and either plain, or with a sauce of your choice.

Fried Green Tomatoes – Sauteed
Same ingredients as above, but instead of frying, cook in a saute pan with a little bit of oil or butter or bacon fat.

Green Pesto Bruschetta

For as long as I could remember I’ve hated tomatoes. Raw tomatoes to be exact. We harvest hundreds of pounds of tomatoes every year and I can’t stand them. I like salsa fresca but it has to be blended almost smooth for me to eat it. If it’s got chunks of tomatoes I avoid them. So one would assume that I never was a fan of bruschetta. You’d be right – I never ate it because of the chunky tomatoes.

But I’m trying to change that. They still aren’t my favorite things but I’m being more adventurous. Some tomatoes still have this funky metallic taste to me but I’ve found that some varieties are OK and with the right accompanying ingredients they can be downright tasty.

Two Fridays ago we went over to Esperanza’s house for dinner. She served tomato, basil and mozzarella on crostinis and I really like them. Heidi and Ute also joined us and she made bruschetta with pesto and balsamic dressing. She made a similar appetizer with roasted peppers. These dishes were the inspiration for this one.

This past week we were visiting my mom in Ohio. It was both Tom and I’s first time visiting her there and we really enjoyed ourselves. The first full day we were there my mom hosted a big BBQ with her friends and neighbors. I wanted to make something for it and with her fabulous vegetable garden (hot weather plants just explode there!) I wanted to make something that featured some of her fresh garden produce.

Her tomatoes were perfectly ripe and she had some enormous bell peppers and the biggest plants of basil I’d ever seen. I saw her Green Zebra tomatoes and knew I was going to start there. At first I started picking red peppers and then thought that if I was going to do a pesto it would be neat to stick with all green bruschetta.
They were a hit and didn’t last long. There was even a group of women standing around them guarding them from any stray husband that might want to try them.
Most of this recipe is not measured out because it really depends on how much you want. The proportions are all by taste.

Green Pesto Bruschetta

In a sauce pan add 1 cup of balsamic vinegar and half a cup of red wine. Bring up to a boil and then reduce to a simmer until mixture has thickened. Stir occasionally to keep from scorching.

Take 1-2 loaves of baguette, sliced, brush with olive oil and then toast lightly
Finely chop 3 bell peppers and a couple of pounds of tomatoes and mix together. 

For the pesto
In a food processor add 2 or 3 handfuls of basil leaves, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, 2 garlic cloves and 1/2 cup walnuts or pine nuts. Start processing and add olive oil until the mixture becomes a thick paste. Add salt to taste.

Smear pesto onto toasted baguette slices

Mound tomato, pepper mixture onto baguettes. Drizzle some of the vinegar and wine reduction and then sprinkle each one with course salt. 

Serve immediately.

Bucheron Cheese

I had received this wonderful book called Homemade Cheese: Recipes for 50 Cheese from Artisan Cheesemakers by Janet Hurst to review. I’ve been making some cheese with our goat’s milk but not very much because they don’t produce a lot. I wanted to get more practice but it was going to take us a while to stock up on goat milk.

The thing I really enjoyed about this book was that it was written by a goat owner so most of the cheese recipes could be done using goat milk. For each recipe she also includes with each recipe what equipment you will need for that type of cheese. The only issue I did find was that she didn’t tell you how many molds you needed for each recipe.

At the time I received the book I had only tried mozzarella, chevre and Monterey Jack. Both came out well but I’m such a sucker for soft cheese.

Soft cheeses, like brie can be difficult to make. But I guess you could say I’m a bit of an overachiever. I didn’t, however, want to do just a brie. I had my heart set on doing Bucheron, which is an aged chevre. It’s difficult to find and one I had really never heard of. I definitely had never seen a recipe for it before. This recipe was going to take 3 days to make so I made sure to do it on a weekend I was going to be home for. It required 2 gallons of goat milk which was going to take us quite awhile to stockpile. To stockpile raw milk we simply froze quart jars of it as we collected it until we got all we needed.

I had 4 small molds for making chevre, which ended up being enough. Five molds probably would have been more ideal though because I was really having to cram the curds into the four to make them fit. I also needed cheese mats, and a food grade plastic box to allow the cheese to retain moisture and keep the cultures from contaminating the wine fridge.

The first thing I had to do to make it was pasteurize the milk since it’s a soft cheese and isn’t aged long enough. I really hate pasteurizing milk just because it can take so long but if I wanted to make this cheese I was going to have to.

To pasteurize you need to heat the milk to 145 deg F and hold it there for 30 minutes stirring to keep it evenly heated. I find that my floating brewing thermometer works best for this but I have to rubberband it to the stirring spoon because my pot isn’t deep enough for it to float. After the 30 minutes is up you want to cool it off as quickly as possible in an ice bath. I cooled it of to 86 deg F so I could inoculate the milk without reheating it.

 This recipe required a Mesophilic DVI MA starter culture, Penicillum candidum and Geotrichum candidum, rennet and a brine solution.

Once the milk was down to 86 deg F I simply added the cultures, stirring until well blended. I then added the rennet stirring up and down. I left it overnight to firm up.

Without cutting the curds I scooped them into the molds filling them. The molds only took about 2/3s of the curds. I let the curds sit for just over 4 hours and then refilled the molds, packing the rest of the curds in. I allowed them to sit overnight to completely drain. The next morning I removed the curds from the molds and brined them for 10 minutes.

The brine was made up of 2 pounds of noniodized salt mixed into 1 gallon of water. Heat up the water until it’s nearly boiling and mix in the salt until it’s dissolved. When it cools some of the salt may precipitate out. You know the salt content is right when the cheese floats. If the cheese sinks there’s not enough salt. This is good to know because you keep the brine to reuse – adding water and salt when needed. Over time it will develop it’s own character from whey and cultures that are slowly added with each batch of cheese. Some cheesemakers have had the same brine for decades.

After I brined the cheeses I laid them on the cheese mats and put them in the box. The first day I repositioned the cheeses several times. I put the box in my wine fridge set about 55 deg F then for the next week I turned them to make sure they were evenly drained and allowing the mold to develop evenly over the cheese.

After three more weeks of aging the cheese was ready. It was much milder than chevre. It no longer had that bite that I associate with goat cheese. It was distinctively different from brie though being more delicate. It’s not creamy like brie either. It’s a delightful cheese that I will make again.

The Perfect Saltine Cracker

One of the things I’ve been missing while going a year without groceries is crunchy, salty snacks. I’ve made crackers before but have never really been happy with the recipes. So I decided to find something closer to a true saltine cracker. Unfortunately when searching for a “saltine cracker recipe” all the recipes that come up use saltine crackers. I couldn’t find any recipes that showed how to make those saltine crackers. No such luck. So I finally came up with one that can’t come much closer to the store bought ones (except they have more “meat” to them and are more satisfying).

4 c unbleached white flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 c coconut oil
1/3 c skim milk
1 c water
Oil or water and salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 deg. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Sift flour, salt and baking powder together. Mix in oil, milk and water until blended well. Knead dough on a surface until smooth.

Now I prefer to use a pasta machine to roll out my dough – usually ending on setting #3. The trick is to make sure the dough is rolled very thin. Otherwise you won’t get crispy crackers.

Cut crackers into squares (I like to use a pizza cutter) and put on parchment lined cookie sheet. Spray crackers with oil or water and sprinkle with salt.

Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown around the edges.

This recipe will make a TON of crackers. If you want, divide the dough in half and freeze it for later use.

Stuffed Mushrooms

I’ve never been one for New Years resolutions. Somehow nothing I promise myself in the dark cold of December/January ever sticks. Winter, for me, is a time of peaceful reflection. It’s a withdrawal, a hibernation of sorts. It’s a gathering-in and a taking-stock, but it is rarely an effective time to make any real changes. It’s too dark, too cold, too quiet.

Spring has always been my chosen time to implement any lifestyle changes: the sun comes out, the sap starts flowing, and all of a sudden I start feeling the urge to clean ALL THE THINGS. This spring I find myself particularly inspired to pare down to the essentials. It’s kind of an ideal time – I am currently moving rooms in my house, so everything needs to be sorted and relocated anyway – and I am enjoying the opportunity to make some alterations.
Aside from some new household rules (I am trying to subscribe to the “if it is not useful or beautiful, it is not necessary” school of housecleaning while chanting a constant mantra of “sparse, sparse, sparse”), Rick and I are trying to take some of this same organization into the kitchen. We will no longer buy more food than fits in the fridge. We will use produce before it rots. We will be intentional with our meal planning. We will go to the farmer’s market for most (if not all) of our produce.

Yesterday, we hit the farmer’s market early with a small list of items we were going to buy. We promised ourselves that we would not splurge on what we have come to call “very expensive chicken food/compost” (read: things that we will wind up stuffing into the fridge and finding later, WAY past their prime, and either feed to the birds or throw out).

We DID wind up getting some late-season fuyu persimmons because we were so surprised that someone still had them (they were still crisp!), and I grabbed a bag of Far West Fungi’s “open cap” mushrooms, which are the cheap ones that are starting to open beyond “button” status.

I love fancy wild mushrooms, and am a committed forager, but sometimes cheap and convenient is still going to win out. Especially because I had a plan for these ones: cheese and herb stuffed mushrooms to bring as an appetizer to our band rehearsal that night. Extra bonus? I could use the organic Sierra Nevada cream cheese I bought last week that was in danger of being forgotten about in the fridge.
Extra-extra bonus? They’re gluten-free, so everyone in the band can eat them!
It is a long, hard road to order, cleanliness, and a house that is not full of junk, but at least the food’s good. That’s gotta count for something, right? It will be an exciting adventure to see what other recipes are born out of my newfound commitment to use EVERYTHING IN THE FRIDGE.
Wish me luck.
Cheese and Herb Stuffed Mushrooms
(serves 4-6 people)

20-30 white button or crimini mushrooms, wiped clean (about 2″-3″ caps)
1 c cream cheese
1/2 c parmesan or asiago, shredded
1 large green onion
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp chopped tarragon (fresh or dried is fine)
1 pinch paprika
1 pinch cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil (for drizzling)

Remove the stems from the mushroom caps and set them aside. Make sure all dirt and debris is cleaned from the caps, and place them gills-up on a parchment-lined baking sheet (make sure that the baking sheet has high sides, as the mushrooms will weep a lot of moisture during the baking process).

Wash and finely chop the mushroom stems. Sautee the stems with the garlic and onion in a skillet over medium heat. You may need a bit of oil or butter to prevent sticking, depending on the type of pan you use. Once the stems are soft and most of the moisture has evaporated out of the pan, season with salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika, and tarragon. Stir to combine fully.

Remove the mixture from the heat (you don’t need to wait for it to cool, though), and put it in a mixing bowl with the cream cheese and parmesan. Stir to fully incorporate. This mixture should be thick and clumpy, but spreadable.

Stuff the cream cheese mixture into the mushroom caps, heaping the cheese about 1 cm higher than the top of the mushroom, and making sure to pack it into the cup where the stems were removed. Drizzle the stuffed caps with a bit of olive oil, and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until the caps are soft and the cheese is just beginning to brown.

You can eat the mushrooms just like this, or you can then place them on a rack (so air can circulate under them) under a broiler for 10 minutes to dry them out a bit and brown their tops (recommended).
If you have extra filling that doesn’t fit in the caps, you can spread it on rounds of baguette and broil them just as you would the mushrooms (keep a pan underneath – the cheese is messy!) – this made a pretty spectacular lunch…and thankfully, it kept me from eating all the mushrooms before we got to rehearsal.

Chantarelle and Onion Dip

(This recipe’s gonna be short. Which is good, since it’s great for those last-minute parties where you still want to be a snobby foodie, but don’t have the time to make something complicated.)
It’s winter. It’s raining, and I feel like I haven’t been sufficiently warm or dry in weeks. Generally, I am not a fan of the rain and the wet. I would rather be sweating in immense heat than wrapped in a million blankets and considering baking cookies just so I can turn the oven on and heat up the house a little. It is grey and dark outside. I am trying not to be cranky (cookies help here, too).
That said, rain makes the mushrooms grow. A LOT of rain makes the mushrooms grow A LOT.
For this I am glad. I can look out at the storm and think of the chantarelles poking their little orange caps out of the duff and unfurling into beautiful flower-like plumage, and be grateful.
NOTE: Always be sure of your foraged foods. There are many dangerous look-alike mushrooms/plants/berries/etc out there, and it is better to throw them away than to eat something you are unsure of. Bring an expert with you when you are learning, ALWAYS check for identifying factors even when you’re pretty certain you know what you’ve picked, and with any new food, check for allergies and sensitivities by going easy/light the first time eating something. If you are not comfortable foraging, you can buy wild mushrooms at many grocery stores, farmer’s markets, or even online.
Rick and I went out to our secret chantarelle spot on Wednesday hoping that the recent downpours (coupled with the holiday festivities) might have given the mushrooms a little bit of time to grow without being immediately snatched up by some enterprising forager. It’s a tricky game, foraging so close to home – there are more people looking than there is food to go around, and timing is EVERYTHING. We were either going to get completely skunked, or we were going to find a patch that no one had been to in a while, and hit it big.
This time, it seems events had conspired to send us scrambling through the mud right after a professional harvester had gone through (many people pick chantarelles and other “gourmet” mushrooms for profit, selling them to nearby restaurants and specialty stores). This means a few things:
First, it meant we had our work cut out for us. Many areas had been cleaned pretty thoroughly and we found the marks of where chantarelles HAD been more often than we found the chanties themselves.
Second, it meant that we had a great advantage – professional foragers who are selling their harvest will not keep mushrooms that are not pretty. If they are too hard to clean or are slightly past their prime, they will often be discarded. These are left to rot (and inoculate the ground with their spores for future generations of mushrooms to grow).
Third, it meant we were going to have to go a little farther out than we normally do, finding where the other guys DIDN’T go because it was inconvenient or inefficient from a large-scale business standpoint.
The first sign that we were going to have a good haul was finding several already-cleaned mushrooms sitting by the side of the path. Not the most beautiful specimens – some had holes from slugs and other insects, others were torn or getting a little soft around the edges, but I’m not so picky about these things, and gladly scooped them up.
A good hint: when foraging, keep at least two separate places to store your mushrooms. One for the clean ones (which can be brushed off in the field and the stem cut to remove all external dirt), and one for the ones that will need to be thoroughly washed due to mud, etc. This way the clean ones STAY clean. Also bring a few baggies for taking samples of unknown mushrooms that you want to identify later (but may not be edible) , or for separating different kinds. These practices will save you hours of work in the long run.
High up over the first hill (and through a thicket of berry bushes and poison oak – thank god for Tecnu!), we found where the pros had left off. BINGO.
A few hours later we emerged from the underbrush triumphant: ten pounds of chantarelles! Our hard work and willingness to get *ridiculously* muddy had paid off, and our packs were loaded to the point of overflow.

One of the best secrets in making use of foraged edibles: The ugly-but-still-tasty ones should be cooked first, and cooked small. After a thorough wash and a pat dry, the salvageable bits were chopped and dry-sauteed , mixed with caramelized onions and sour cream, and left for the flavors to meld overnight.

This dip is perfect served on rounds of baguette (I baked some whole wheat/oat baguettes that were pretty spectacular), or with breadsticks, chips, or even veggies! The floral sweetness of the chantarelles mixed with the deep pungency of the onions and the tang of sour cream combine to make a delectable and earthy dip that is a winner on any table.

Chantarelle and Onion Dip
1-2 lbs chantarelles (this is a wet weight, if your mushrooms are dry, you can scale back this amount a bit). It was about 4 cups, raw and chopped, but we made a LOT of dip.
1 large yellow onion
2 Tbsp butter
6-8 c sour cream (you can substitute non-fat yogurt or even yogurt cheese for part or all of this, but it is tastier with more fat in it)
salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
Chop the chantarelles into small pieces (roughly 1 cm cubes) and put them in a dry skillet over medium heat. They will weep out a lot of water, which should be cooked off until it is nearly all evaporated from the pan. Remove these from the pan and set aside. Melt the butter in the hot pan, and sweat the onion (diced medium-to-fine) until brown and caramelized, adding in the mushrooms at the end of the cooking time. Stir to combine, and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, combine the sour cream with any yogurt or other milk product of choice until completely incorporated and smooth. Mix in the mushrooms and onions as well as a bit of salt and black pepper (go lightly here – you’ll want to re-season after the dip has had time to age and meld).
Let this dip sit for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator (overnight is better) to let the flavors combine and mature. Re-season with salt and pepper if necessary before serving.

(this dip can also be made with frozen chantarelles, as prepped in this post. Just thaw and mix with the sour cream as written above.)