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Bluefoot Mushroom

This week's look at what's new, bountiful or mysterious in the produce aisles.

Startling in appearance, the bluefoot mushroom (pied bleu in French) has a stem with a brilliant blue hue (though interior designers might call it closer to lilac).

The bluefoot is the cultivated cousin of the wild blewit (BLEW-it), whose color is concentrated more in the cap than the stem. The vibrant, eye-catching color of the stem fades quickly with time and exposure to heat. The caps and gills remain gray or tawny.

Both are valued for their woodsy, earthy flavor and firm though delicate texture, often described as velvety. The blewit is much more pungent in flavor and aroma and is available only briefly in early fall. Highly prized in Europe, the blewit rarely makes it stateside. The cultivated bluefoot is available infrequently.

HOW TO SELECT: Bluefoots should be firm and dry. Some bluefoots suffer from slight crumbling at the edge of the cap. Steer clear of bluefoots that appear shriveled or that have moist, soggy gills.

HOW TO STORE: These cultivated mushrooms are as finicky about their environment as they are elusive. If left too exposed, they become excessively dry; if kept in a closed environment, they retain moisture and become soggy. Place them on a plate or in a wire basket lined with paper towels and refrigerate, uncovered, for no more than three to five days.

HOW TO CLEAN: Bluefoots tend to be remarkably clean. Still, brush briskly with a mushroom brush or wipe with a paper towel to remove any trace of dirt.

HOW TO PREPARE: Subtly flavored and sturdy, bluefoots suit many cooking methods and flavoring agents. They are similarly sized and suitable substitutes for the more common white (a k a button) or shiitake mushrooms, whether the recipe is a breakfast omelet or barley soup.

Cooking options include sauteing, braising, stewing, roasting and grilling. The bluefoot is rarely, if ever, consumed raw.

The caps are typically quartered or, if large, cut into eighths. (If destined for the grill or as a vehicle for, say, crab stuffing, they should be left intact and brushed lightly with oil.) The stems are edible, though they need chopping and require a few more minutes cooking time than the caps.

Anyone can saute mushrooms, but a braise is best accomplished by a brief saute over moderate heat, followed by the addition of a broth or booze and about five minutes of covered simmer to draw out the mushrooms' juices. Then they are uncovered and cooked until the liquid is reduced to the desired amount and served as a side dish or, if served on crostini, an enticing first course. (See recipe that follows.)

The bluefoot's mild though distinct disposition takes well to a variety of flavoring agents, chief among them alliums (onions, garlic and such) and alcohol, such as sherry or Marsala (for the skillet, not the chef).

Sautéed Bluefoots or Blewits With Aromatics
(4 servings)

According to Elizabeth Schneider in "Vegetables From Amaranth to Zucchini" (William Morrow, $60), blewits or bluefoots that are first sauteed then braised are at once "meaty and earthy." She recommends serving this as a side dish to lamb or veal chops. To transform it into a first course, simmer the bluefoots a few minutes longer at the end, until almost all of the liquid has evaporated, then add a splash of heavy cream and serve immediately on thinly sliced and toasted French or Italian bread.

1 pound bluefoot or blewit mushrooms
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
4 juniper berries, crushed and finely chopped (optional)
1/4 cup (about 1 ounce) finely chopped prosciutto or firm dry-cured ham
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup dry sherry or dry Marsala
Salt to taste
About 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 to 4 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Using a soft brush, clean the bluefoots. Trim and discard the ends of the stems. Finely chop the remaining stems. Cut the caps in half if small, into quarters or eighths if large.

In a skillet large enough to hold the mushrooms in overlapping fashion, heat the oil. Add the shallot, juniper berries (if using), prosciutto, bluefoot stems and pepper to taste and cook without stirring for 2 minutes. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the mushroom stems are slightly browned and softened, about 3 more minutes. Add the sherry and simmer until almost all of the liquid has evaporated, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the mushroom caps and toss to combine. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the mushroom caps release their juices, about 5 minutes. If desired, uncover and cook until juices have evaporated. (May set aside at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours and reheat gently over medium-low heat).

To serve, season with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. Add the parsley and toss to combine.

Per serving: 174 calories, 6 gm protein, 19 gm carbohydrates, 8 gm fat, 9 mg cholesterol, 1 gm saturated fat, 285 mg sodium, 2 gm dietary fiber

Renee Schettler
The Washington Post

7,375 Posts
ohhhh shrooms my favorite....I'm amazed she put juniper berries with her shrooms, that's such a strong flavor....I've been swayed by the Crossing boys on using shrooms with fish.
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