It turns out, mushrooms are pretty versatile.
Mushrooms are limitless! Before, chefs used to just make a mushroom sauce using whatever was available. Now, they look at the character, flavor, texture, and availability [of them]. They examine the wide variance of species, the active subculture of foragers, the thrill of the potential danger, and most importantly, the impressive flavors and textures of this naturally vegan ingredient. There is a definite movement of chefs using non-traditional mushrooms — it’s no longer just cremini, button, or shiitake. Also, mushrooms can handle any cooking method; they can be incorporated into a sauce, a thickener, or the main course. Chefs have advanced beyond the basic set of mushrooms and it is exciting to see it happening all over the city.
How have you been using them at Clement?
I’ve been evolving a mushroom appetizer, taking it through three iterations to completion as an ochazuke-style dish. Ochazuke is a Japanese dish made by pouring green tea, dashi, or hot water over cooked rice and adding savory toppings. The first version was a cold salad using late summer mushrooms, green strawberries, and pine needles. The second used the same ingredients as the first, but was heavier for the cooling weather. The third complete and current dish is the second iteration with the ochazuke-style broth made of matsutake and mirepoix, poured over the dish tableside.
What are the mushroom’s most unexpected uses?
Teas, because you get the true essence of the mushroom. Nearly all of our broths and sauces at Clement have mushroom to give a certain depth to the flavor. I use mushroom almost as much as I do onion in a sauce.
It’s pretty healthy, too.
Since people tend to think of mushrooms as vegetables, it’s generally accepted that they provide the nutrients associated with produce. But what may be surprising is the fact [that] mushrooms also provide the nutrients commonly found in meat, beans, or grains. Mushrooms are low in calories, fat-free, and cholesterol-free. They’re thought to be helpful in the prevention of cancer, in the strengthening of the immune system, and in the proper maintenance of the immune system.
I noticed you included a whole mushroom in with your Wagyu…
It was matsutake mushroom, which is commonly referred to as a “pine mushroom” for its fir tree-like flavor. It pairs very well with meat, so we used that, along with silverberry to bring out the pine flavor.
Tell me about your personal, professional forager.
The forager I work with offers ramps, nettles, rhubarbs, and mushrooms. He travels from Pennsylvania all the way to Maine during the peak season, late spring and summer. He lets me know what he is foraging for so I can plan my menu. I also let him know if there is something that I would like him to try to seek out. He delivers the ingredients to Clement himself when he is close to New York.