Lack of Sunshine Has Mushroom Dinner Organizers Scrambling

One would think that with all of the rain, mushrooms would be bountiful. But the organizers of the first annual mushroom feast at the Humboldt Research Institute and the Eagle Hill Foundation in Steuben were scrambling to find enough wild mushrooms for dinner last weekend.


The entrée at the Saturday dinner was sautéed chanterelles in a cream sauce with chicken and over linguini. —JACQUELINE WEAVER
The entrée at the Saturday dinner was sautéed chanterelles in a cream sauce with chicken and over linguini. —JACQUELINE WEAVER

The head forager, Greg Marley, a Rockland mycologist (mushroom expert), said rain is good, but too much rain and cold is not good for mushrooms. He said they thrive in damp soil, but they also need warmth.

The best place to find edible mushrooms last week was along sunnier roadsides. Saturday’s entrée, Creamed Chanterelles, was made from more than a dozen pounds of lovely light brown mushrooms donated by a local arborist who scavenged them from light-filled spots along the way.

For those who suffer from mycophobia — a fear of mushrooms — experts say they should remember that only 5 to 10 percent of the up to 2,500 species of mushrooms in Maine produce some type of toxic reaction. Between 7 and 15 percent are edible.

Marley offers this caution: “You never eat a mushroom unless you are 100 percent sure what the mushroom is and that’s it’s edible.”

Some of the more popular edible mushrooms are the morel, the giant puffball, the shaggy mane, chicken of the woods, chanterelles, and the at times more difficult to find black trumpet — which is Marley’s favorite.

“It has a wonderful rich, earthy flavor,” he said. “One of its names is the poor man’s truffle. Some years they can be very common, but they can be challenging to find regularly.”

About 30 people dined at the institute’s compound Saturday evening with local residents mingling with botanists and others who travel to Eagle Hill for its advanced and professional level natural history science seminars.

The dinner was followed by a lecture and slideshow on fungi by Dr. Lawrence Leonard, a retired orthopedic surgeon who has been studying at the institute since it first opened more than 20 years ago.

The dinner included button mushroom soup, arugula salad, creamed chanterelles with chunks of chicken served over linguini, and walnut torte.

Marley said chanterelles are best in a cream sauce since the flavor elements in the elegant mushrooms bind to fat molecules to enhance the mushroom’s subtle taste.

Creamed Chanterelles

  • 1lb of fresh chanterelles or 2 oz of dried chanterelles
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 1 oz butter
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped, garlic (optional)
  • 9 fl oz whipping cream
  • 1 Tbsp chopped parsley

Wipe the mushrooms with a damp cloth. If large, cut them in half or quarter them. Otherwise leave whole.

Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan. Add the chanterelles with salt and pepper and sauté over a high fire for 2-3 minutes. Add the onion and garlic and cook over a low fire, stirring occasionally, for 15. Stir in the cream, bring to a boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes; taste for seasoning.

Spoon into a serving dish, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve hot.

Serves 4-6

Can be served on toast as a first course, or as an accompaniment to meat or chicken.



Cream of Mushroom Soup

  • 6 Tbsp. Butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • ½ lb fresh mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • 3 cups of chicken bouillon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 light cream

1. Melt the butter in a heavy pan. Add the finely chopped onion and stir over moderate heat until onion is transparent. Add the mushroom and cook, stirring, another four minutes.

2. Remove the mixture from the heat and blend in the flour and meat concentrate. Add stock slowly, stirring constantly. Add bay leaf and pepper.

3. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer five minutes. Remove the bay leaf and stir in the cream. If desired, garnish with crotons just before serving.



Walnut Torte

Preheat 375 degrees

12 servings

  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 cups finely ground walnuts
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Mix the walnuts, bread crumbs, and baking powder together.

Beat egg yolks, lemon juice and sugar until thick and yellow.

Beat egg whites.

Alternating ingredients combine egg yolk mix, beaten egg whites & walnut mix.

Bake for 25 minutes.

Rum or lemon icing…see below.



Rum Icing

  • 1/2 stick unmelted soft butter
  • 2 tsp rum (or more)
  • 3/4 – 1 cup confectioner’s sugar


Cream the butter, beat in the rind, confectioner’s sugar & liquids in that order.

Lemon Icing

Instead of rum, use lemon juice and rind.


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