Thursday, June 21, 2012

Shasta: Secret Truffle Paradise

Fungus gold!
Editor's note: mushroom foraging can be dangerous, and mushrooms that look innocuous to the untrained eye can make you very sick or kill you. That said, find a mushroom expert you trust and go forage with them before trying it on your own, even if you have read the field identification guides. And do buy a field identification guide.


Once you know what you are doing, mushroom foraging can be rewarding and potentially lucrative. 

The family and I are on a trip north to a little place called Shingletown, California, an itsy-bitsy town that is part of Shasta County.

I know nothing about Shasta County except that when my television shows a severe weather alert it always involves Shasta and snow -- "Dreaded California Thunderstorms" (which makes me laugh heartily, being from Northeastern "Lake Effect" Ohio, and all).

[ Haha! "And all" my Ohio is showing! ]

[ Editor's note: oh me oh my-oh, look at miss Ohio. ]

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The family and I are staying with friends at their vacation home, the owner an avid sportsman.

The decor is out of an outdoors man's catalogue: taxidermy of stag's heads, foxes, turkeys; Bear skins and trophies of winning bass casts.

Aside from the feeling of always being looked at by the eerie glass eyes of dead game, its very peaceful here; And damnit, I needed a vacation!

I've been generally lacking luster and that is never good.

The five of us did a little light hiking today. I fell behind, still recovering from a foot injury, as the kids rushed ahead full of curiosity and youthful energy.

Lagging, I used the opportunity to take snapshots of the local flora.

Eventually I caught up to the husband and kids.

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Hopefully public domain. Groovy.
As I hobbled closer, he pointed out that we were standing among a vast array of mushrooms growing along our path. 

Once you get your foraging eyes on (as Michale Pollan calls them)  all sorts of things come into focus.

We kept walking...kids running ahead and poking the soft, recently rain-soaked earth with sticks.

My husband was hell-bent on foraging for forest treasures.

They get ahead of me again and I hobble to catch up.

My husband hands me what looks like a beautifully polished turd.

I look up and see a large old oak tree. There are a bunch of acorns on the ground and there is heavy leaf cover...

...A prime place for truffles!

My husband found three, I found none.

I'm not keeping score, I still get to eat them!

[ Editor's note: 3-0, we're keeping score. ]

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"She don't look like much but she can make the Kessel Run in under 12 parsecs!"
I happened to have packed Arborio rice, as if somehow I knew that truffles were in my future.

Using roast pork I had brought from home, I made a white truffle risotto.

This was an ironic haute side-dish next to camp-fire charred, rain-drenched hotdogs.

It was quite lovely.

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Cooking hot dogs in the rain adds extra smoky flavor .. to your eyes!



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Use #28775 for Cast Iron cookware.
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Roast Pork White Truffle Risotto:

  • 1 cup of arborio rice.
  • 1/2 cup drinkable white wine or prosecco.
  • 4 cups of chicken stock, kept warm on stove.
  • 1 medium shallot, diced.
  • 1/2 cup shredded pecorino.
  • 1/2 white truffle, minced.
  • 1/2 white truffle (shave at serving time).
  • cracked black pepper to taste.
  • 1/3 cup of roast pork, chopped.
  • handful of Italian parsley, roughly chopped.
The technique is to slowly add stock about an ounce at a time until the rice stops "drinking" stock in.

Start with your shallot, cooking over medium heat in plenty of olive oil until slightly browned.

Add rice and stir, coating with oil, until rice begins to "cook" (lighten in color and toast lightly). Add about half of the wine and a 2 ounce ladle of stock, plus the pork and chopped truffle.

Stir, lightly, with a wooden spatula continuously.

Turn heat up to medium high or high.

Add stock as it evaporates. Whole cooking time can take 30-35 minutes. Rice should be cooked al dente, which a light toothsomeness. Consistency should be slightly soupy: I like a loose risotto, and it will tighten up as it cools. 

Add remaining wine near the end of cooking. This gives us two layers of flavor: the cooked, muted wine and the brighter, boozier wine.

When you think the rice is cooked and it's taken enough stock, add a little less than half a ladle anyway and remove from heat.

Add cheese and pepper to taste, stir in gently.

Add parsley. Top with a glug of pristine, ("The Good Stuff"™), bright, floral green olive oil.

Serve table side, using a truffle slicer or sharp vegetable peeler to garnish risotto with additional truffle.

Allow the truffle steam to fill your nostrils and know that all is right with the world.

Happy cooking! ~~ 99% Bittersweet