Mushroom stew, my little boy’s goal after a long foray in the woods near our home, seemed a lost cause after our first outing when we ended up with a only handful of porcini, slippery jacks and chanterelles – just enough for a wild mushroom butter, but not much else. He wanted it so badly, that wild mushroom stew, and every few feet into our journey he’d stop and ask, “Can we eat this?” or “Is that poisonous?” and we’d consult our mushrooming guidebook which would give me the confidence in what I knew to be correct. My husband joined us on our next trips and we’d delve deeper in the woods, uncovering even more mushrooms to satisfy my little boy’s craving for mushroom stew.
We gathered slippery jacks with their sticky peel-away skin and creamy white flesh and the charming cinnamon-dusted porcini, too. We found tiny hawk’s wings whose cap of concentric brown scale-like protrusions resembles a hawk’s feathers, to the imaginative, anyway. We were lucky, too, fellow mushroomers who, without a short-legged companion in tow, were able to journey deeper into the woods, often sharing their bounty with us. And, in that way, more than our fair share of golden chanterelle mushrooms landed in our stew pot.
But all the while we trampled through the muck of a forest floor littered with pine needles, dank puddles and rotting logs, there was only one topic of conversation: mushroom stew. How do you make a mushroom stew, he’d ask. Can we add this mushroom? How many do we need? And on. And on.
So when we’d amassed enough edible wild mushrooms to build a decent stew, about two pounds, more or less, we headed home – tired, hot, a bit dehydrated. My little boy and I got to our work preparing mushroom stew, he by insisting on cleaning and chopping the mushrooms when he’d use the opportunity to carefully recite the names of the mushrooms. Suillus. Bolete. Chanterelle.
I combined our other ingredients: clarified butter, fresh herbs, carrot, celery, shallots and potatoes the size of marbles. We’d add the stew meat too – grass-fed beef from thirty miles down the road, though any red meat should do – elk, venison or even bison.
- 1 tbsp clarified butter or beef tallow
- 4 ounces bacon,, (chopped fine)
- 1 pound beef stew meat
- 6 shallots, peeled and chopped fine
- 1 large leek, (white parts only, sliced thinly)
- 5 carrots, (peeled and chopped)
- 5 stalks celery, (chopped)
- 1 pound fingerling potatoes, (kept whole if small, chopped if large)
- 2 pounds mixed mushrooms (shiitake, button, cremini, chanterelle, porcini etc) , (cleaned and chopped)
- 2 bay leafs
- 1 small bunch fresh thyme
- 2 cups dry red wine
- 3 quarts homemade beef stock
- 1 small bunch fresh parsley , (trimmed and chopped)
- unrefined sea salt and black pepper, (to taste)
- Heat a tablespoon clarified butter or beef tallow in a dutch oven or heavy-bottomed stock pot over a medium-high flame until it melts.
- Render four ounces chopped bacon in the hot fat until it crisps, then remove from the pan and add one pound beef stew meat, browning on all sides, about three or four minutes.
- Remove the browned meat from the pot, adding chopped shallots and sliced leek Fry the leek and shallots in the hot fat until they release their fragrance and begin to caramelize a bit around the edges.
- Toss chopped carrots, celery and mushrooms into the pot with two bay leafs and the leaves of one bunch fresh thyme. Fry for two to three minutes, before deglazing the pot with 2 cups dry red wine and 3 quarts homemade beef stock.
- Add browned beef back into the pot along with one pound small fingerling potatoes.
- Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer the mushroom stew slowly for about an hour and a half to two hours until potatoes and meat are tender.
- Remove the stew from the heat, stir in crisp bacon and chopped parsley. Season to taste with unrefined sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper as it suits you.