I ask you to set aside any surefire prejudices you may THINK you have against mushrooms for a few moments. Mushrooms held many negative connotations in my culinary circle of commonly eaten food for too long in my life. Yes, those soggy, fungi-related, poisonous, rubbery, bland, and a pain in the you-know-what to meticulously pluck off of my otherwise, perfectly decorated pizza. Those things!
But now.... my heart has turned mushy for these fungi-related creatures and I am fascinated by 'em.
So are Germans. I've heard, though can't confirm, that they consume more mushrooms per capita than any other country in the world (their reputation for mushrooms might be similar to the reputation Utahns hold for consuming mucho Jell-O and ice-cream.... can you blame us though?)
The Schwarzwald (Black Forest) is a popular Southern Germany location for mushroom hunting and gathering, the forest providing perfect conditions for all types of wild mushrooms to prosper- some edible, some definitely not edible....Mushroom hunting, in this region specifically, is taking place now and lasts through October! Hooray! Pick some for me, dear Germans!
Well, rewind my life 4 years and you have a socially awkward, frumpy, and still-in-a-zone returned missionary for the LDS church. Only 36 hours had passed when I found myself at top of Big Cottonwood Canyon standing on our cabin's porch and delightedly inhaling the brisk mountain air for the first time in 18 months. In the vast late- summer verdant Brighton forest, waddled two people slowly in and out of pine trees, heads down towards ground, hands behind back, faces concentrated on what looked like a heavy-duty search.
Seeing that they were all over our property aroused some curiosity- my mom cordially inquired their doings and in an adorably, dear-to-my-heart, thick German accent, they replied, "hunting for the mushrooms" (or, "hunteeng for se mushwrooms").
At last! After 18 months as a missionary in Berlin and hearing tale after tale about the wonderful hobby of pilz jagen (mushroom hunting), I witness it firsthand in the very place I like to call home! What this couple found as far as wild mushrooms go, I don't think they found many, even though they assured us that indeed, a bounty of wild mushrooms exist in our cabin neighborhood....(4 years later and I have yet to find any fungi farms in our cabin forest). Oh well.
Also in the last few years has been an enormous "outbreak" of the availability of mushrooms. crimini, Oyster, shiitake, white button, portabella, porcini, Trumpet, etc are nearly in every major grocery store at our pleasure and use. Am I going to make a point here? Yes, and that is, all these things have lit a sparkle of interest in trying out new mushrooms. I know crimini isn't terribly outrageous, but they are affordable. And with Autumn here (yes!!!!), they pair quite nicely with fontina cheese and sage.
Here's to the first day of OCTOBER!! WHOOP!
*Warning: I can't quite recall all the measurements with precision, but you can play around with things, adding more or subtracting any ingredient, etc.
Penne with Fontina, Sage, and Crimini Mushroom
1 cup **cremini mushrooms, washed well and sliced (stems cut off)
2 tsp butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup Spanish onion, diced (or any yellow onion)
1/2-1 cup fontina cheese, shredded
Fresh sage, chopped
1/2 cup half and half
Salt and pepper
1/3 lb whole wheat penne pasta, cooked al dente
In a large skillet over medium high heat, let butter melt and add mushrooms, onion, and garlic, stirring constantly. Meanwhile, heat up a large pot of water, add pasta and cook al dente.
When veggies are nice and tender, add half & half, fontina cheese, one ladle's full of water, seasonings, and fresh sage. Cook over high heat, stirring all the while, until the sauce comes together. Pour over pasta and serve hot.
** Nerdy note: Crimini mushrooms are similar in texture and shape to a normal button mushroom but provide a greater earthy, meaty flavor. Should you decide to use button mushrooms, the flavor will be less exciting.