Pick exotic mushrooms and splurge on wild ones

Wild mushrooms won’t be the only ones, strictly speaking, featured at next week’s Jacksonville Mercantile class, the subject of this week’s A la Carte story.

Mercantile co-owner and chef Constance Jesser likely will utilize some of the more exotic mushrooms — shiitakes, creminis, portobellos — that are in fact cultivated. Confusion comes in when restaurant menus describe these as “wild,” a travesty, I think, in the Pacific Northwest where many people pick — or at least eat — from the cornucopia of indigenous fungi.

But in the absence of truly wild mushrooms, cultivated but exotic mushrooms at least provide more flavor than standard button mushrooms, which let’s admit, do have their place, too. Here’s a recipe using a variety that obviously would only be more delicious with actual wild mushrooms.

I would splurge on a mixture of chanterelles and black trumpets, maybe deglazed with a lighter white-wine or sherry vinegar. Look for them at the Grants Pass, Medford and Ashland farmers markets from forager Louis Jeandin of Mushrooms All Year.

Pork Loin Chops With Mushroom Chutney

2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon sifted all-purpose flour

4 bone-in pork-loin chops (each 1 1⁄4 inches thick) about 2 1⁄2 pounds total

1 tablespoon canola, peanut or vegetable oil

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon peeled and grated, fresh ginger

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped (about 3⁄4 cup)

6 ounces pitted prunes, quartered (about 1 1⁄4 cups)

6 ounces button mushrooms, quartered (about 3 cups)

6 ounces shiitake or cremini mushrooms, stems trimmed, cut into eighths (about 2 cups)

2 tablespoons dark-brown sugar

1⁄2 cup red-wine vinegar

Heat oven to 425 F. In a small bowl, mix 1 teaspoon of the salt, the black pepper and flour together. Sprinkle half of mixture over 1 side of each of the pork chops.

In a 12-inch, cast-iron skillet or oven-safe saute pan, heat the oil over high until first wisp of smoke rises. Tilt skillet gently in a circular motion so oil coats bottom thinly and evenly. Put chops, seasoned side down, in hot skillet (take care not to crowd them in pan; sear them in batches of 2, if necessary) and sprinkle remaining half of seasoning mixture on sides facing up.

Sear pork chops until they are a rich golden-brown, turning them when first side is done, about 3 minutes per side. Turn chops so first side faces down again and transfer skillet to oven. Bake for 2 minutes for rare, 4 minutes for medium-rare and 6 minutes for well-done. Remove skillet from oven, transfer chops to a large plate or platter, then loosely cover them with foil.

Return skillet to stove over medium. Add the butter, ginger, onion, prunes, button and shiitake mushrooms and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Stir with a wooden spoon, scraping any caramelized pork bits off bottom, and saute until onion softens slightly and surface of mushrooms has begun to sweat a bit, about 3 minutes. Add the brown sugar, vinegar and 1⁄2 cup water, then continue to cook over low until vegetables have achieved an even degree of softness and liquid in pan is syrupy, about 6 minutes.

Divide chops among 4 warm dinner plates, and spoon mushroom chutney liberally over and around chops. Makes 4 servings.

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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