Black Trumpets (Craterellus fallax) – Pizza, Mushroom Brie and more
Jackpot, bonanza, mother lode… all descriptive enough in their ways, but the inescapable conclusion is that the thesaurus, never having gone mushrooming and found hillsides blanketed with black trumpets, is simply not up to the task.
We’ve had good years before – 2009 was among the more noteworthy – but this one is already off the charts and it’s only August. Other things being suitably propitious, they’ll keep coming until the end of September or later.
And not just for us. Reports of abundance are widespread and local greengrocers are selling them for around $20.00 a pound.
Useful things to know about Black Trumpets (Craterellus fallax)
1. They’re notoriously hard to find because they blend so well with the forest floor. Plus they’re small; a couple of inches tall and about an inch wide at the top is par for the course. The largest one we found the day of the basket was a bit more than 4 inches tall and 2 inches or so across at the flare.
2. They’re unusually durable, in the field and in the ‘fridge, because of a two part cell structure that makes them less watery than most common mushrooms.
Store loosely wrapped in waxed paper – not plastic! – and as long as they were dry when put away most of them will last indefinitely, gradually becoming rather wan-flavored dried mushrooms. Which brings us to
3. Black trumpets are good candidates for drying. The thin flesh desiccates quickly and the woodsy, smoky flavor is pretty well retained.
Reconstitute simply by adding to whatever preparation; doing the soak in boiling water/save liquid routine is unnecessary.
4. Dried trumpets reduced to powder are an excellent seasoning. Try a spoonful or two in the ground meat for hamburgers; add to pan sauces for steaks and chops; incorporate in pasta dough; add a pinch to punch up the flavor of just about any mushroom dish.
ALL PURPOSE COOKED BLACK TRUMPETS
Trumpets should be cooked thoroughly, but are delicious used as though they were raw – in sandwiches (great with avocado!), salads and things like the stuffing for devilled eggs. To cook without diluting flavor or adding the flavor of fat, just spread in a single layer on a plate and microwave on high for 45 – 90 seconds, depending on the size of the mushrooms and power of your microwave. They’re done as soon as they’re wilted and evenly black.
The better the brie the better the finished product, of course, but don’t hesitate to make this with the standard industrial triple cream sold in better supermarkets from coast to coast.
All you do is sandwich a layer – or two – of chopped cooked trumpets in a split wedge of cheese, wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate to let the flavors mingle. The longer the better (within reason) but give it at least a day. Allow to come to room temperature a couple of hours before serving.
For best results, split the cheese in half (or thirds, if you’re going for triple decker) while it’s still cold, then let it warm up and soften before pressing on the mushrooms and reassembling.
TRUMPET PIZZA WITH CARAMELIZED ONIONS AND TWO CHEESES
The mushroom flavor is strongest when the pizza is lukewarm, rather than burn-your-mouth-on-the-cheese hot.
For one 14-inch pie:
2 tbl. butter
1 large onion, cut in 6 wedges, the wedges sliced across to make strips
1 lb. pizza dough
4-5 oz. black trumpet mushrooms, cooked as described above
2 generous tbl. fresh thyme leaves (omit if unavailable)
3 oz. Gruyere, the drier and nuttier the better, shredded
8 oz. Mozzarella, shredded
1. Melt the butter in a heavy skillet over low heat, add the onions and cook, stirring often, until they’re reduced to golden brown threads, about 20 minutes. Season with salt after they’re cooked. Heat the oven to 450.
2. Roll the dough very thin and fit it into a 14 inch pizza pan, leaving about 1 1/2 inches of overlap for the rim.
3. Spread the mushrooms over the dough in an even layer and sprinkle on the thyme. Spread the cooked onions over the mushrooms. Loosely, gently roll up the rim.
4. Bake until the dough has risen and is starting to set and brown, about 5 minutes. Working quickly, take the pizza out of the oven, sprinkle on the gruyere, then the mozzarella. Return to the oven and keep baking until the cheese is bubbling and browned and the dough rim looks well toasted.
Photographs of basket and trumpets in the wild by Bill Bakaitis.