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By PEGGY TOWNSEND
Sentinel staff writer
Chef Robert Morris found lunch while playing golf at Poppy Hills in Pebble Beach.
There it was near the 10th hole: A clump of beautiful bolete mushrooms. Morris, who owns Blacks Beach Cafe in Santa Cruz, couldn?t resist hustling over to the spot and picking the mushrooms which he served as garnish on bowls of luscious porcini mushroom soup with braised fennel and onion compote the next day.
That was just one sign of Morris? dedication to mushrooms.
The other was the meal he and chef Lynn Sheehan of Sand Rock Farm created for a recent preview lunch for the Santa Cruz Museum?s upcoming Fungus Fair and Fungus Feast.
And if the rich, winter preview menu was any indication, Fungus Feast diners will be hoping Morris heads out to the links again before their event which is set for 6:30 p.m. Jan. 27 at Blacks Beach Cafe.
Fungi-philes also will be able to get their fill of delectable mushrooms during the museum?s 30th annual Fungus Fair which gets under way Saturday and Sunday at the Louden Nelson Community Center and will feature cooking demonstrations along with lectures on mushroom hunting and medicinal mushrooms.
Both Sheehan and Morris share a love of the wild mushroom.
Morris is an avid mushroom hunter. He?s even been known to claw his way into a patch of poison oak to grab a few chanterelles while on a mountain bike ride.
Sheehan, who runs Sand Rock Farm Bed and Breakfast in Aptos, has her own forager who brings the fruits of the wild into her kitchen for the many dinners she prepares.
So with a glass of golden 1996 Hugel Riesling at the ready, the two French-trained chefs went to work on a recent chilly afternoon preparing a three-course lunch that highlighted the rich tastes of the mushroom world.
Taking her cue from the Alsatian woodlands in the fall, Sheehan built a Black and Gold Chanterelle Salad that charmed the senses.
Dried, black chanterelles from last year?s harvest reclined with this year?s golden crop of mushrooms on a bed of Brussels sprouts leaves and julienned slices of smoked ham. The taste was sweet and smoky; the texture crisp and rich as a fall day.
Meanwhile, Morris jumped behind the stove to finish off a Porcini Mushroom Soup with Braised Fennel and Onion Compote. Setting his garlic-thyme seared, links-harvested boletes delicately on top of the compote, he created a dish that was elegant in its simplicity.
The earthy soup played a wonderful undernote to the sweet compote. Morris encouraged guests to spread a little of the compote on crisp baguette slices, making diners feel like they were on an Alsatian picnic right in the wilds of Pleasure Point.
As the conversation between chefs and guests ran to the creative process of cooking, kitchen competitions and the joys of collaboration, Sheehan brought out the main course ? a ragout of root vegetables, chanterelles and duck nestled in the shell of sweet dumpling squash.
The shells looking like they had been painted by an early Impressionist, the sweet orange flesh of the squash played compliment to the rich, pungent ragout.
It was a stew a grandmother might serve on a winter night ? if she was a classically trained, French-chef grandmother.
The meal was a tribute to the 300-plus species of mushrooms which grace the Central Coast and the cuisine in much the same way the Fungus Fair and Fungus Feast will be.
The fair, in its 30th year, will have hourly Mushroom 101 lectures, along with Sheehan?s cooking demonstration at 11:30 a.m., Christopher Hobbs? lecture on medicinal mushrooms at 1:30 p.m. and Chef Jozseph Schultz? cooking demonstration at 3:30 p.m.
Hunting tips and mushroom identification also will be available.
The Fungus Feast, meanwhile, will benefit the Santa Cruz Museum and features both wild and cultivated mushroom dishes, along with wine and dessert.
Both Morris and Sheehan said they are looking forward to the Fungus Feast, which sold out last year.
For Sheehan, who is a regular lecturer at the Fungus Fair, the dinner is a chance, she said, "to close the loop;" a way to teach people about mushrooms in a tangible, edible way.
Morris enjoys the creativity, but also the crowd.
"I look forward to it every year," he said, "even when I?m burnt and kind of tired.
"Everyone is so wonderful. The warmth and energy of the crowd is just amazing."
If you want to try your own version of the two chefs? luncheon before you attend the Fungus Feast, here are recipes Morris and Sheehan have provided:
BLACK AND GOLD CHANTERELLE SALAD
1 oz. Black Chanterelles (Craterellus cornucopioides) dried or ? lb. fresh
? lb. Gold Chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius) fresh only
1 carrot (sm.), peeled and minced
6 green beans, thin cut on bias
1 shallot (med.), peeled and minced
4 branches thyme, leaves picked from stems
1 Belgian endive, julienned
2 oz. smoked ham, julienned
1 parsnip, peeled, some shaved into thin strips, some cut into sm. pieces
12 pearl onions, peeled, roasted in olive oil and salt and pepper
6 Brussels sprouts, peeled into individual leaves
? cup white wine
Salt and pepper to taste
Rehydrate dried craterellus by simmering in water. When tender, remove and saute with minced shallot, carrot and bias-cut green beans in a splash of olive oil and a bit of butter. Season with salt and pepper; reserve.
Slice and saute golden chanterelles with minced shallots and thyme in a splash of olive oil and a bit of butter. Season with salt and pepper; reserve.
Saute parsnip strips in olive oil until crisp; drain on paper towels, season with salt; reserve for salad garnish. Saute small pieces of remaining parsnip in butter until tender; season with salt and pepper; set aside.
Saute Brussels sprout leaves in butter with salt and pepper; deglaze pan with wine. Swirl pan juices to emulsify. Add golden chanterelles, sauteed parsnip, julienned ham to Brussels sprouts leaves. Toss together and plate, flattening mound slightly and spooning juices around salad. Mound the black chanterelle salad in the midst of the chanterelle/Brussels sprout mix; top with the crispy parsnip strips. Enjoy.
From Lynn Sheehan, Sand Rock Farm.
PORCINI MUSHROOM SOUP WITH BRAISED FENNEL AND ONION COMPOTE AND GRILLED PORCINIS
? lb. porcini mushrooms, cubed
1 sm. red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped
2 Tbsps. olive oil
1 bay leaf
? cup white wine
2 cups water
2 Tbsps. tomato sauce (or tomato paste)
Drizzle olive oil in a hot pan. Sear the porcinis, taking care not to burn. Allow mushrooms to brown, but do not move them. This imparts better flavor to the soup. (Alternately, you could grill the mushrooms first to deepen their flavor.)
Add onions, garlic and carrots. Allow to brown.
Add white wine (Robert used Pacific Rim Dry Riesling from Bonny Doon Vineyard for the lunch).
Add 2 cups of water and allow to cook down.
Add tomato sauce and bay leaf.
After 10 minutes remove bay leaf.
Puree mixture. Add 1 Tbsp. olive oil and blend again. Add pinch of freshly grated nutmeg and salt to taste.
Transfer puree to sauce pan. Add water to adjust consistency.
(Note: When re-heating pureed soup, do not boil to avoid separating oil out.)
1? porcini mushrooms, cleaned and cut into ? -inch thick slices (cap and stem)
Mix marinade ingredients and coat all sides of porcini wedges. Grill over high heat to sear in juices.
FENNEL AND ONION COMPOTE
1 lg. fennel bulb, chopped
1 lg. red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
Mix ingredients and saute until slightly brown. Add ? cup water and cook covered over low heat until tender, season with salt and pepper.
Spoon compote into low bowl. Ladle soup around compote. Place grilled porcinis on top of compote and garnish with parsley. Serve with garlic/thyme croutons and white wine.
Robert recommends a 1996 Hugel Riesling.
From Robert Morris, Blacks Beach Cafe.
ROAST CHANTERELLE RAGOUT IN A PUMPKIN SHELL
6 sprigs thyme, save tips and pick leaves from stem
3 small cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thinly
? lb. gold chanterelles, fresh only
1 med. shallot, minced
1 leek, medium, cut into ? -inch slices, then rinsed of grit
1 carrot, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces on bias
1 parsnip, peeled cut into 1-inch pieces on bias
1 rutabaga, peeled, cut into wedges, then triangles
2 oz. smoked bacon, cut into ? -inch square dice (optional)
Brown chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste
(Excellent with addition of duck or chicken into the ragout.)
Cut lid with stem from each of the pumpkins, maximizing capacity as a "bowl." Scrape out seeds and fibers; trim bottom of lid to smooth flesh. Arrange pumpkins in baking tray. Sprinkle inside with salt and pepper. Put a thyme tip, a few slices of garlic and a small knot of butter in each pumpkin. Set lids back on; pour a little water in baking dish. Cover pan; bake at 350 degrees until tender. (Start checking at 25 minutes.) Remove from oven; transfer to tray to cool with lids off. Can be done a day ahead.
Slice and saute golden chanterelles with minced shallot and thyme in a splash of olive oil and a bit of butter. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Keep separate, but toss each of the root vegetables (excluding leeks) in olive oil with salt and pepper to taste. Roast in medium oven, shaking pan periodically, until tender. Cool and reserve. Cook bacon over low-medium heat until mostly rendered. Pour off most of the bacon fat, reserving just a little to saute in. Drain bacon on paper towel. Set aside.
Sweat sliced leeks in a little of the remaining bacon fat (or substitute a bit of butter). Deglaze with red wine; cook down until reduced by more than 2/3 . Add chicken stock; reduce by half. Add chanterelles, roasted root vegetables, and bacon; heating together and adjust seasoning. Rewarm pumpkins in oven, lids slightly askew, in baking tray with just a bit of water. Ladle hot chanterelle-root vegetable ragout into pumpkins. Serve in heated pasta bowl and enjoy.
From Lynn Sheehan, Sand Rock Farm.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Fungus Feast, benefit dinner for the Santa Cruz Museum. WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Jan. 27. WHERE: Blacks Beach Cafe, 15th Avenue and East Cliff Drive. COST: $100 per person, reservations required. DETAILS: 420-6116.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Fungus Fair, including cooking demonstrations, fungus identification and discussion of medicinal uses for mushrooms. WHEN: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. WHERE: Louden Nelson Center, 301 Center St., Santa Cruz. COST: $6 general, $5 students/seniors. DETAILS: 420-6115.