Sylvia Plath’s “Mushrooms” tells the story of an oppressed segment of society—likely women, given it was penned in 1960—mounting a quiet, underground revolution.
Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.”
Foragers say wild mushrooms pack the most flavor especially when at their peak in autumn. Not skilled enough to choose edible from poisonous, I cook commercially dried wild ones and the cultivated fresh varieties revolutionizing the $17 billion mushroom market worldwide. Mushroom market growth—set to hit $20 billion by 2025—is driven by eaters seeking meat alternatives.
Table, or button mushrooms, are the most widely cultivated. Once a French botanist pioneered the process in 1707, growers produced them in the Parisian catacombs. They were first cultivated in the US 200 years later when Pennsylvania Quakers planted them under greenhouse benches. Outside of pandemic conditions, China produces the majority of the world’s mushrooms, but Chester County, Pennsylvania, still grows half of the (mostly button) mushrooms Americans eat. Entrepreneurs are setting up high-tech operations in remodeled Maine papermills and purpose-built facilities in California. A subset will ship DIY kits to your doorstep. Just spray the container and watch them grow. Commercial cultivation is gaining traction, too, in the developing world because agriculture by-products like rice bran and banana leaves can be repurposed to grow mushrooms.
Popular varieties include lion’s mane (puffy juicy, meaty), maitake (peppery, toothsome), morel (cone shaped, earthy), oysters (blue, gray, pearl, pink, white, and yellow in color, fragile in texture, delicately flavored), and shiitake (velvety umami bombs). When pairing mushrooms with cheese, know that buttons pair well with cream cheese as well as parmesan, maitake hold up to pecorino and fontina, morels mix well with chèvre, oysters prefer nutty alpines, and feta is a good match for shiitake.
Keep an eye out for new kinds of cultivated mushrooms hitting the market soon. They are coming for you.
“Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:
We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot’s in the door.”
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 6 ounces cold chèvre, crumbled
- 4 ounces cold unsalted butter, cubed
- 4 tablespoons ice water
- 1 ounce dried mushrooms
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 ounces mixed fresh mushrooms, finely chopped
- 1 medium white onion, minced
- 1 teaspoon porcini (or kosher) salt
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
- 1-2 pinches cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup crème fraîche
- 1 egg
- Pinch kosher salt
- ►Combine flour, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor. Add chèvre and butter. Pulse until mixture is crumbly. Add ice water and pulse until dough just comes together. Turn dough out onto plastic wrap, shape into a disk, wrap tightly and chill for 2 hours.
- ►Place dried mushrooms in a bowl with warm water and let steep 20 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove mushrooms and chop finely.
- ►Melt butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add reconstituted and fresh mushrooms and onions to skillet, stir to coat in fat, and cook until tender, 6-7 minutes. Add porcini or kosher salt, thyme, and cayenne and stir to combine. Sprinkle flour over mushroom mixture. Stir to combine, and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in crème fraîche. Cool to room temperature and move to refrigerator to chill 1 hour.
- ►Preheat oven to 450° F. Beat egg with salt and 1 teaspoon warm water.
- ► On a floured surface, roll dough to ⅛-inch thick. With a floured 3-inch biscuit cutter, cut out as many circles as possible. Place 1 teaspoon of mushroom mixture onto each piece of dough. Brush edges of circles with egg wash. Fold dough over filling. Use the tines of a fork to firmly press edges together. Prick tops of turnovers with the fork.
- ►Place turnovers on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush tops with egg wash. Bake 12-14 minutes until golden.