From truffles to shiitakes

The fun guy among us shares his love of mushrooms

Market-ready fungi.

Market-ready fungi.

PHOTO by russell trow

Mon père, Etienne Bourride, often lamented the cultural abyss in the small Midwestern village of Henri’s youth, particularly in terms of the availability of 1) decent wine; and 2) cooking ingredients. No doubt things have improved some—in fact, in addition to the “Midwestern Food Movement” (I can hear my father scoffing), drinkable wine is now made in small towns throughout the Midwest. Plus, the Internet has made it easy to order just about anything you need to cook just about any dish and have it delivered the next day.

But in the 1960s and ’70s, it was cheese curds, fried chicken, gravy and Jello. Brought my father to tears.

Thankfully, we had an occasional visitor who sympathized with our plight. I’ll never forget the time my father’s brother, Guy Alain Bourride, visited and, upon walking through our front door, unwrapped a small packet of fresh black truffles and then pulled from his suitcase a bottle of Bordeaux from his hometown along the Dordogne river. Brought my father to tears.

That night, he made a truffle risotto, which he served with a leg of lamb, that I recall to this day as one of the finest side dishes I’ve ever had. In fact, it was that dish that led Henri to a lifelong love of fungi, not only of my beloved truffles, but also their American cousins—mushrooms.

So I’m thrilled by the variety of mushrooms available here in the North State, and I’m greatly anticipating the annual spring bounty (though dependent on rainfall and general dampness, mushrooms could be another victim of the drought). And as Colette frequently points out, mushrooms have surprisingly high nutritional value, recent research suggesting that they might even help prevent cardiovascular disease and strengthen the immune system.

We frequently purchase mushrooms from the Saturday Chico Certified Farmers’ Market, where vendors usually have plenty of the fresh button-like crimini as well as our favorites: shiitakes and oysters. (We were shocked to read the recent editorial in Chico’s daily “newspaper” about Chicoans avoiding the market, and how those who do shop there have a miserable time—that has certainly not been our experience.)

We love them sliced in salads, sautéed in butter and wine and served over beef and chicken, and also mixed into creamy pasta sauces. Colette recently developed a recipe for quinoa risotto (modified from one on a bag of quinoa from Trader Joe’s) that we absolutely adore. Would that mon père were around to try it. Might bring him to tears.

Colette’s Quinoa Risotto


5 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth

4 tablespoons olive oil

6-8 ounces mushrooms, sliced

2 shallots, diced

3 garlic cloves, diced

1 cup dry quinoa, rinsed

1/2 cup white wine

1/4 cup parmesan, grated

1/4 cup crème fraîche

In a small saucepan, heat stock or broth until warm. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add mushrooms and sauté until soft (3-5 minutes). Remove mushrooms from pan and set aside. Lower heat and add shallots and garlic; sauté until soft (3-5 minutes). Increase heat to medium high, add quinoa, and stir for 2-3 minutes. Lower heat to simmer, add wine, and stir until absorbed. Add 1/2 cup warm broth, and stir until absorbed. Continue adding broth and letting it absorb, 1/2 cup at a time, until quinoa is creamy. Stir in parmesan, remove from heat and cover for 2 minutes. Stir in sautéed mushrooms and crème fraiche, and salt and pepper to taste.

Fresh versus dried

While fresh mushrooms are exquisite, they keep just just 5-7 days (store them in a brown paper bag in the fridge). Dried mushrooms, on the other hand, have the advantage of a longer shelf life and in fact will keep in your pantry for a couple of years in a properly sealed air-tight container. The most common varieties—morels, porcinis, and chanterelles—are all packed with flavor.

And there’s a bonus: The water in which you reconstitute dried mushrooms (slice thinly, soak in room-temperature water for about a half hour, rinse) makes for a delicious addition to stocks, soups, stews.