Monday, September 26, 2005

Marlon Blando

So far I am extremely pleased to be a member of the Oregon Mycological Society—even though I have yet to hunt and collect a single piece of fungi. That’s because I just got back from a special OMS program about cooking and eating wild mushrooms, given by Dan Brophy, a locally famous chef and former instructor at the Western Culinary Institute here in Portland. I am currently enjoying a nonhallucinatory mushroom high. Had I not been a member of the OMS, the only way to get that high would have been to sign up for a $35 class held at the heinous and insufferable Whole Foods, where they bill Brophy as the "mycological madman." (I doubt that moniker was his idea.) Instead, owing to my elite status as a member of the OMS, I paid nothing, neatly avoided Whole Foods and its pushy denizens, and ate some of the tastiest food I've had in several months.

Here’s what I learned (and ate):
  • I sampled freshly picked sautéed white chanterelles and sautéed yellow chanterelles. I prefer white to yellow, although both are exquisitely delicious.
  • In Japanese cooking there’s a “fifth taste” known as umami (pronounced “oooo Mommy”), which means (roughly) “ultimate deliciousness.” Mushrooms, fresh tomatoes, Thai fish sauce, cheese, and Ranch-flavored Doritos have it. To add umami to your cooking, just add mushroom dust (or Ranch-flavored Dorito dust).
  • The technical term for something that has too much salt in it is “too salty”; the technical term for something that doesn’t have enough salt in it is “Marlon Blando.” (Maybe you had to be there, but I couldn’t stop laughing about that.)
  • It is possible for polenta and risotto to NOT be “Marlon Blando.” Tonight was the first time I ever liked, in fact, loved either. Possibly the secrets to non-Marlon Blando polentas and risotti are to have several cooking degrees (i.e., know what you’re doing) and to be sure to add a generous amount of wild mushrooms (lobster mushrooms in our case)—and plenty of kosher salt.
  • I need to order a mushroom log—pronto—so I can grow my own shiitakes and attempt to make the wonderful soy-marinated shiitake caps with black sesame seeds Dan made.
  • I need to get out on a mushroom foray ASAP, so I can learn how to collect my own ‘shrooms here in Oregon where there are more than 50 edible varieties.
To die for (not literally, one hopes)!


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