Jun 4, 2014 6:43 PM

True Wild Mushroom Ragu

Sounds better than Polyporus squamosus and Laetiporus sulphureus sauce, doesn't it?
A simple carb dinner was desired tonight, and with a couple pounds of fresh mushrooms in the fridge from yesterday's market exploits, a thick, chunky mushroom ragu of sorts was in order. Enter, protein! New Hampshire Mushroom Co., I love you.
"Chicken mushroom" (among other similar names, the Latin of which is Laetiporus sulphureus) is a favorite in this kitchen for its meaty, flavorful, pretty, great freezability (word of the day) properties. They are very common, abundant in spring and fall, and have no poisonous lookalikes. but do your research before trodding off!
The underside of chicken mushroom is very porous: teeny-tiny microscopic pores that look sponge-like and soak up a lot of flavor, making them vegetarian dreams for hearty or otherwise inspired cooking!
This is the squamosus. That brown feathery texture you see is exactly why this mushroom has the nickname "pheasant back" (among other).

Pheasant back is a bracket fungus, and it's the removal of the stem that yielded that opening. You're looking at two halves of one mushroom.
With deep tube-like pores, the underside of the pheasant back is extremely cool looking. Some recipes call for scraping it off to reveal even deeper mushroom flavor; flavor, fyi, that is reminiscent of freshly cut watermelon or cucumber. I left it on, and had no problem detecting that distinct summery, crisp watermelon aroma.
Both pheasant backs and chicken mushrooms have early tender stages and older tough stages. The pheasant back, I was reminded, has a really tough stem, and thus the inside of the ring is tougher than the outside. The outer 2" (+/-) of the cap is very tender and easily breaks.

None of this mattered to me for this dish. The whole shebang went into a food processor, and then got sauteed in Coppal House farm's canola oil (cold pan, cold oil, easy heat!) with local spring leeks and shallot, some garlic, and a sprinkling of sea salt. I was immediately reminded of linguine con le vongole!

I always think of puzzles with food shots like those above.

After cooking the mushrooms down for 7-8 minutes, I added a splash of red wine and two cans of whole plum tomatoes, and simmered the pot for 15 minutes (which is all any fresh marinara ever needs). Before adding in fresh herbs (basil and oregano from the garden), I swirled in a decadent balsamic vinegar (read: "syrup") to lift the brightness of the sauce. A healthy handful of freshly grated, truffled cheese from Wolf Meadow (primo sale al tartufo, a young med-soft cheese) finished the plating. And, then we ate. The end.

Simple, quick, easy, weeknight tasty cooking. Yup, it's what's for dinner. Just watch out for little beetles that suddenly appear on your cutting board!
No harm was given to this little guy. It's thriving in a specimen jar in the fridge, complete with a piece of polyporus squamosus. Until I know what it is and where it's normally found, that's where it shall stay. (I'm awaiting a Bug Guide.net ID any time now...)
Update! My source at BugGuide.net suggests this is Oxyporus rufipennis, a "rove" beetle native to Canada. No wonder it doesn't mind the cold.


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