In a secret hiding spot in Anchorage, my aunt guided us to her secret stash of butter boletes. She loves mushroom hunting — butter boletes, king boletes, morels and more — but she’s picked enough for her and my uncle to eat all season. So, she shared her spot with us. In about 10 minutes, we had a tote bag full of the mushrooms, which are spongy and the nicest yellow color. We saved some to use fresh and dehydrated the rest to use later.
They have a short season, so if you’re interested in mushroom hunting, find a guide online or at the bookstore and focus on the ground around you. There is so much free food out in Alaska, you just have to do some exploring to go get it.
If you decide to dehydrate your mushrooms, or buy some dehydrated mushrooms, I would recommend reconstituting your fungi with white wine. It’s more exciting than water and when you’re cooking your mushrooms in the pan, with some salt and pepper and your drunken mushrooms, the smell is amazing and the taste is better. Place your savory mushrooms and use them to top some rice, some risotto, pasta, pizza and anything you think mushrooms might be good on.
This recipe is inspired by an Alison Roman recipe in the New York Times, where she puts mushrooms on top of barley risotto that is cooked in stock. It’s great, but here’s my version of just the mushrooms for you to put on top of whatever you please. It’s nice to use a mix of different kinds of mushrooms if you have it available to you, so you can get the different textures. Oyster mushrooms are one of my favorite kinds to use and they are usually available to buy from a local at farmers markets.
Yummy crispy-ish mushrooms to top on anything
Olive oil, enough to cover the most of the bottom of the pan
4 leeks, thinly sliced
1 pound of mushrooms, torn into bite-sized pieces (a mix of different kinds is always nice. Try oyster, cremini and morels or butter boletes?)
Salt and black pepper to taste
1. Heat oil in a skillet on medium-high heat. Add half of the leeks and half of the mushrooms. Season with the salt and pepper.
2. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are browned and crisped.
3. Remove the mushrooms and leeks from the skillet and place in a bowl. Cook the rest of the mushrooms and leeks for about 15 minutes until crisped and browned.
If all leeks and mushrooms can fit together in the same skillet, skip step three.
4. Top the mushrooms on risotto, pasta, pizza, rice or whatever your heart desires.
• By Victoria Petersen, For the Peninsula Clarion