Fresh This Week In Food & Fiction (3)

by Cara Nicoletti on October 20, 2013


Guess what today is! It’s not Friday! It’s Sunday, but I’m talking about what’s fresh in the markets and on bookshelves anyway. I can’t be tamed.

Yesterday I went foraging for wild mushrooms with a couple of friends, so I decided to save this third installment of “Fresh Friday” for your Sunday morning (in case you missed them–installments 1 and 2). My friend, Matt is a mushroom expert, not only because he’s been working as a chef for many years, but also because he grew up foraging for wild-edibles in his native New Hampshire. We were up at 5:30 and headed into the woods just as the sun came up, everything was cool and damp and quiet, and despite being only one borough away and a stones-throw from major traffic, it felt like we were a million miles from Brooklyn (in the very best way).


Matt took us to his regular spot (which I swore a blood oath to never disclose) and pointed out hickory nuts and onion grass, edible jewel weed and poisonous berries while we searched for mushrooms. He showed us where to look and what to look for, and despite it being the driest fall in ten years, I was still pretty excited about our haul. Mushrooms can be found any time of year but because they thrive in cool, damp conditions, they are most abundant in early spring and throughout the fall. Some wild mushrooms you might be seeing in the markets now are hen of the woods (maitake), chicken of the woods, black trumpet, lobsters, matsutake, yellow-foot chanterelles, and oysters. I will eat mushrooms on absolutely anything, but one of my favorite ways to eat them is under a smashed poached egg on good toast, especially if there’s some garlicky kale hidden underneath.


Feeds 3 hungry people
For the Mushrooms:
1 ½ pounds wild mushrooms (I used oysters, honeys, chanterelles, lobsters, and maitakes)
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
10 sprigs thyme
salt and pepper to taste

For the kale:
1 bunch of kale (any kind you like, I used lacinato)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
juice of ¼ of a lemon (roughly 2-2 ¼ teaspoons)
1 clove of garlic, minced

For the eggs & toast:
6 medium eggs
¼ cup white vinegar
1 loaf of bread (cut into much more even slices than I managed)
butter for spreading on toast
salt and pepper to taste

If you get too excited about eating to cut your bread straight it's okay, I understand.

If you get too excited about eating to cut your bread straight it’s okay, I understand.

Rinse your mushrooms and give them a rough chop (did your mother tell you never to wash mushrooms because they’ll soak up too much water? I don’t want to tell you she was wrong, but she was wrong. Go ahead and give them a wash). Melt butter in a medium skillet and toss in the thyme and the mushrooms and cook over medium heat. Mushrooms will release their liquid, simmer in it, and once it evaporates they will begin to brown and caramelize. While all of this is happening, de-stem your kale and cut it into ribbons. Heat your olive oil and garlic in a medium skillet. Add kale and lemon juice and toss until softened but not sad and wilted—about 4 minutes.


Now you’re going to poach your eggs (don’t be scared!). I gave you a tutorial once when I made red flannel hash, but here it is again:

First, fill a sautee pan or skillet with water (I like to use these instead of a deep sauce pan because the egg doesn’t have as far to fall). Add 1/4 cup of vinegar (this helps the whites firm and adds a nice flavor to boot). Do not let your water come to a boil. To poach an egg you want your water very hot but not boiling, or even simmering. You want it to be at that moment where all of those bubbles are forming at the bottom of the pan and steam is rising from the surface. Crack your egg into a ramekin, and create a whirlpool in the water with a spoon. Gently lower your egg into the water and let it cook for about 20 seconds. After 20 seconds you can start very gently nudging the whites up around the yolk. If the egg is sticking to the bottom of the pan just use a spatula to loosen it. Cook for about 3 minutes-–the whites should look cooked but you should still be able to see the yolk wiggling around inside. Lift out with a slotted spoon, place on a paper towel to drain excess water.


Once your bread is toasted and slathered in butter, assemble the dang thing. Cover the toast in kale, spoon the caramelized mushroom over it, top it off with two poached eggs, season with salt and pepper, and feast until the roof of your mouth is toast-sore.

Next up, two books that I’m really excited about: Anne Rice’s The Wolves of Midwinter and Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries.

It’s been ten years since I spent my entire Christmas break devouring the entirety of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. I returned to school that January as dead-eyed and pale as one of her characters, and decided to take a little break from glutting myself on horror novels—-but I think I’m ready for round two. Over the years, Rice has tackled not only vampires in her novels, but witches and mummies, ghosts, demons, angels and assassins. Her new series, the Wolf Gift Chronicles, is her first foray into the world of werewolves. The Wolves of Midwinter is the much-awaited second book in the series (the first, The Wolf Gift, was published in early 2012), and continues the story of Rueben Golding, who in the first novel has just transformed into a werewolf. Rueben, who had previously been dealing with his transformation alone, is now within a community of werewolves called “the Morphenkinder,” and has fallen in love with a ghost who appeared mysteriously in his mansion one night. As the book reaches its climax “astonishing secrets are revealed, secrets that tell of a strange netherworld, of spirits—centuries old—who possess their own fantastical ancient histories and taunt with their dark, magical powers.” The Wolves of Midwinter was released by Knopf on October 15.

This past week, Eleanor Catton was awarded the Man Booker Prize for her second novel, The Luminaries , and at 28, became the youngest writer to ever receive the award. Despite only having been on sale for five days, it feels like I’ve been hearing about this book (and longing for it) for months. No matter how many synopses and reviews I’ve read, though, it’s hard to get a clear handle on what this book is actually about, which only makes me more curious to read it. The New York Times’ Bill Roorbach called it “a mass confabulation that evaporates in front of us, an astrological divination waning like the moon,” and said that reading it was “like doing a Charlotte Brontë-themed crossword puzzle while playing chess and Dance Dance Revolution on a Bongo Board.” This sounds a little bit stressful to me, but he means it in a good way, so I’ll take his word for it. The Luminaries was released by Little, Brown on October 15th.

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Leave a Comment

Elizabeth Aquino October 20, 2013 at 11:37 am

You’re the best.


Cara Nicoletti October 20, 2013 at 1:02 pm

the feeling is so very mutual!


Glamorous Glutton October 20, 2013 at 6:31 pm

I went foraging last week and had a lovely haul. Your recipe looks really yummy, that runny yolk and I can imagine how delicious all those fragrant mushrooms are. GG


sakura October 21, 2013 at 12:05 pm

I love Anne Rice’s vampire novels – and mushrooms too! But I wasn’t too keen on her angel novel so have been very hesitant to try her werewolf one. I haven’t really read much about it online so I’m really glad to see it featured here. I think I’ll take it with me on holiday!


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