Spice up Thanksgiving with seasonal bounty
Del Norte Triplicate/Bryant Anderson
With mushrooms aplenty in the forests of Del Norte County, now is the time to forage and think about how to use this bountiful harvest. Fresh mushrooms don’t last a long time, so the chefs at the Requa Inn prepared a conserva to preserve them for about a month.
Thomas Wortman and Paul Hess gathered chanterelles from an undisclosed location. They made an oil and herb marinade to cook the mushrooms.
“A conserva is a way to preserve mushrooms instead of drying,” Hess said. “It will give them the same texture and flavor as if you had just pulled them out of the fridge.”
The chefs made ricotta tarts with a juicy chanterelle mushroom on top
with some fried herbs and a slice of fennel bulb.
The filling was rich and creamy, but had a sharp lime flavor undercut
with a hint of sweetness. The mushroom was plump from marinating in oil
with a sharp herbal aroma. It added a level of earthiness to the fruity
filling, creating a meld of savory and sweet. The herbs added more
savory flavors with a crunchy texture. The fennel left a slight licorice
aftertaste similar to the spice anise.
The dish could served for brunch or as an appetizer or even a savory
dessert during Thanksgiving.
There’s a significant mushroom culture in Del Norte, Hess said. The
conserva technique can be invaluable for mushroom hunters.
Wortman combined three oils, crushed garlic cloves, thyme, coriander,
pepper and pepperwood leaf and brought it to simmer before adding the
chanterelles. This method should preserve mushrooms for about a month.
Mushrooms are plentiful in Del Norte because “they love the rain,”
Hess said. You can get edible mushrooms in any season, but right now is
when the high-value chanterelles and boletes are sprouting; next will be
morels in January, he said.
The filling is a combination of ricotta cheese and a whipped sugar
and egg mixture. It’s like a cheesecake filling, Hess said, but not too
Requa Inn chef Paul Hess and some of the ingredients for ricotta tarts with wild mushrooms. Del Norte Triplicate/Bryant Anderson
Ricotta was made with Borges Family Creamery milk and lemon juice.
The hot milk curdled from the lemon juice to make curds and whey.
Allowed to sit, Wortman said, the solids and liquids separate naturally.
“It does the rest on its own,” he said.
Hess whipped together cream and sugar, and then eggs separately.
Sugar helps the filling to hold a foamy structure and not be too dense,
He folded the whipped egg into the cream. He broke up the lump of
thick ricotta cheese before adding the cream mixture one-third at a
time. Lime juice and rind were added last. Lime adds flavor, but is a
little bit sweeter then lemon, Hess said.
The filling was poured into prepared tart crusts and baked in the
Meanwhile, Hess seared disks of a fennel bulb with a little oil and
butter to give it more flavor. The fennel then softened in the oven for a
time before topping the tarts.
Wortman fried herbs, parsley, oregano and tarragon, in hot oil. The
herbs will pop as water is released into the oil, Hess said. Take them
out of the oil once brown and let them cool. Throwing on salt
immediately allows it to absorb easier, he said.
The tarts were ready when the filling only wiggled slightly in the
middle. They were topped with a chanterelle mushroom, fried herbs and a
Ricotta tart w/ wild mushrooms
1 gallon Borges milk
1 cup fresh lemon juice
zest of 4 lemons
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1. Place all ingredients except the lemon juice into a large non-aluminum pot and bring to a boil on high heat. When the milk boils, add the lemon juice — the curds and whey will start to separate.
2. Remove the pot from the heat and allow to sit, covered for 20 minutes to fully separate.
3. Soak a cheesecloth in water and wring out, leaving it damp. Press the cheesecloth into a strainer with the edges of the cheesecloth hanging over the sides.
4. Empty the pot into the cheesecloth slowly. Let the cheese sit for about half an hour until the whey has separated.
Tart shell dough
7 ounces flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
9 ounces cold butter cut into half-inch cubes
3.5 ounces sugar
1 tablespoon water
1. Place the flour and salt into a bowl and work the cold butter cubes into the dough with your hands until incorporated and the dough is in pea-sized clumps.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs until just incorporated.
3. Make a well in the flour mixture and pour the egg mixture in. Stir together with your hand in the shape of a claw. When the dough starts to form, press it together with both hands until it’s smooth. If the dough is still crumbly, add a tiny bit of the water until it sticks together. If the dough is too sticky, dust your hands with flour and work it gently into the dough. If you press the dough with your finger, the indent should be left behind and should not bounce back.
Ricotta tart filling
1 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup cream
1/4 cup sugar
juice and zest of 1 lime
1 teaspoon salt
1. Whip the cream with half the sugar until stiff peaks form.
2. Whip the eggs with the other half of the sugar and the salt until a ribbon of egg trailing off the whisk does not immediately dissipate into the rest of the egg.
3. Gently fold the cream and egg mixture in with the ricotta cheese and lime, one-third at a time. Stop mixing as soon as it’s combined.
1 quart wild chanterelles
zest and juice of one orange
zest and juice of 2 lemons
olive oil, safflower and canola oils
1 bunch whole thyme stems
1 star anise
1 teaspoon peppercorns
1 teaspoon coriander
1 wild pepperwood or bay leaf
1. Put all ingredients except the mushrooms and the citrus juices into a small saucepan. Use enough of any combination of oils to cover the mushrooms completely in the saucepan.
2. Put the saucepan on medium-low heat and bring to about 200 degrees. Add the mushrooms and citrus juices, allow to come back up to 200 degrees and simmer for 5-7 minutes.
3. Allow to cool to room temperature before storing in the fridge.
1. Roll the tart dough into six small tarts or one large one, place the raw dough into a tart shell, trim the edges. Cut a round of parchment paper the size of the tart dough and place into the tart, fill the papered tart with dry beans or pie weights before baking at 350 degrees or about 15 minutes. When the tart shell is crispy and golden brown, remove from the oven and set aside the paper and weights.
2. Let the tart shell(s) cool to room temperature and fill with the ricotta filling all the way to the edge.
3. Bake at 300 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until the filling no longer jiggles in the center. The tart shell will seem too soft until it cools for 5-10 minutes after coming out of the oven.
4. Serve the tart garnished with chanterelles conserva, caramelized fennel and fried herbs.
Caramelized fennel bulb
1 fennel bulb
3 thyme stems
1. Cut the fennel bulb, removing the green stem and then slicing top down to create intact 1-inch cross sections.
2. Place enough of the oil in a sauté pan to just cover the bottom. Cook the fennel over high heat until both sides are browned.
3. Add a pat of butter and the whole thyme stems into the hot pan. Just when the butter foams up and starts to turn brown, place the whole pan in a 350-degree oven until the fennel is soft. Discard the thyme stems and drain off the excess fat.
20 tarragon leaves
20 parsley leaves
10 oregano leaves
1 shallot sliced into 1/16-inch rings
3 tablespoons ground panko bread crumbs
Safflower oil for frying
1. Fill the saucepan half-way with the safflower oil. Bring the oil to 375-400 degrees.
2. Test the oil by tossing in one of the herb leaves, Be careful, the oil will sputter and spit! The leaves should be fresh and pat dry with a paper towel. If the leaf turns brown quickly in the hot oil, turn the heat down and wait for the oil to cool. If the oil does not sputter and the leaf only simmers, then it is not hot enough and will not fry the leaves crispy.
3, When the oil seems right add 15-20 leaves at a time. The oil will bubble up and sputter. The leaves become crispy after only 20-40 seconds of frying, making them crispy yet still green.
4. Remove the leaves to a plate lined with a paper towel to soak away excess oil. Sprinkle with a little salt immediately. Repeat the process with the rest of the leaves.
5. Toss the shallots in a small bowl with the bread crumbs, shake off the excess crumbs and fry them in the same fashion.