The months of January through early April in New England signify a time of rest and re-growth on the farm. While fields are quiet and covered with snow, farmers are offered a brief respite from harvesting. This time is used to select seeds and finish crop plans for spring. Naturally, this also means a lull in local produce available here at the shop, as many crops are out-of-season or grown in limited quantities at this time of the year.
Luckily, West Coast farms are able to offer and ship fresh, organic and sustainably harvested fruits and vegetables during the early months of the year. Here at our Cambridge location, we have been working closely with small family farms and foragers who practice similar growing methods to the farms we work with in New England. Among these are Foraged and Found Edibles, a purveyor and harvester of wild edibles from Northern California to British Columbia, from the Pacific Ocean to the Continental Divide.
My introduction to Foraged and Found Edibles began with a telephone call from our sister shop in the South End. David, the manager and lead cheese buyer, had expressed great enthusiasm over this relatively young company and urged me to explore their offerings.
With the fall mushroom season in New England coming to an end, I knew we would have the space on our shelves for the dried varieties. So, my curiosity piqued, I agreed to receive a small batch for a trial run.
When we received the delivery the following week, I quickly finished my tasks for the day and hauled the crate downstairs for a closer look. Our delivery included King Boletes, Morels, Chanterelles and a “Wild Mix” of Pacific Northwest species — each beautifully shaped, spotlessly clean and looking as though they were picked and dried mere hours ago. The King Boletes, also known as Porcini mushrooms, were plump and inviting. The Morels were the biggest I had ever seen. And the “Wild Mix” was absolutely bursting with color and variety. I tried to name each mushroom in the pack – Oyster, Lobster, Porcini, was that a Hedgehog Chanterelle? I soon lost count. David had been very, very right in his recommendation. These mushrooms were exceptional. And, as I would soon find, so is the company who foraged for them.
Founded in 2001 by Jeremy Faber, Foraged and Found Edibles currently supplies farmers markets, restaurants and specialty shops in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Satisfying a passion for both forestry and the culinary arts, Faber ensures quality, timeliness and consistency with his harvest. From the mountains to the table, these wild edibles are hand-picked, sorted and cleaned. Then, the mushrooms are laid on racks and fan-dried without heat. (The use of heat can ultimately destroy compounds in the mushrooms, leading to the loss of color and flavor.) Soon after, the mushrooms are hand packaged into re-sealable, two-ounce pouches and simply labeled. With his patient, selective eye and a dedication to preservation, Jeremy Faber has created a brand of high-quality dried mushrooms that elevate any dish.
To begin using dried mushrooms, you must first rehydrate, or reconstitute them. Good quality dried mushrooms require a short amount of soaking time – the mushrooms from Foraged and Found Edibles need only about 5 minutes. The most efficient way to reconstitute the mushrooms is to place a handful (or however many you wish you use at a time) in a small bowl. Bring a kettle of clean, cold water to a near boiling temperature and carefully pour over the mushrooms until covered. Once the mushrooms are soft and plump, pour the mushrooms and their liquid through a fine mesh sieve (or coffee filter) to drain, making sure to keep their soaking liquid, also known as the liquor. This liquor is fantastically savory and rich, perfect for using in place of broth for soups, stews, braises, or sauces. As for the mushrooms, use them as you would in any recipe calling for the fresh variety.
Roast Chicken with Wild Mushrooms and White Wine
2 cups dried wild mixed mushrooms
3 whole chicken legs
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 leek, thinly sliced with greens removed
1 carrot, chopped
1 cup dry Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc
1 cup mushroom liquor (see note)
1 fresh bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
Reconstitute dried mushrooms: place the mushrooms in a small bowl, cover with near boiling water and steep for 5 minutes. Drain. (Note: reserve liquid as the mushroom liquor.)
Preheat oven to 350°F degrees. Rub chicken legs with sea salt and freshly ground pepper and set aside. In a large, oven-proof skillet, heat 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil. Add chicken to brown for 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove from skillet.
Add garlic, leeks, carrot and mushrooms to the skillet. Sauté briefly, until leek is softened, about 5 minutes. Add white wine. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes. Return chicken to the skillet, skin side up. Add mushroom liquor, bay leaf and thyme. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until chicken is cooked through, about 25 to 30 minutes. Serve warm and enjoy!
Emily Shannon is a cooking enthusiast and works in the produce department and as a cheesemonger at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge.