Diego Muñoz, teacher at Le Cordon Bleu and mushroom lover.

Chef Diego Muñoz, a Spanish cooking teacher at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu school in Madrid

At Incredible Mushrooms, we are very excited to have the opportunity to talk with Diego Muñoz about how mushrooms are prepared in classic French cuisine.

Chef Diego Muñoz, a Spanish cooking teacher at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu school in Madrid, says that cooking with mushrooms is typical of French southern cuisine. 

The French sautée the mushrooms with butter and aromatic herbs. They are easy to make like a side dish or main course, full of flavor and with that elegant French touch.

To keep things simple... we'll abbreviate with IM for Incredible Mushrooms and DM for Diego Munoz.

Let’s get started with the interview.

IM: What do mushrooms mean in French cuisine?

DM: Mushrooms in French cuisine mean seasonality. Autumn is very rich in mushrooms, and the season for harvesting. And that means a wide variety of wonderful seasonal dishes.

And, of course, autumn is also the season for truffle hunting.

IM: How does your story with mushrooms in your cooking begin?

DM: I started working at the Echaurren restaurant in La Rioja, Spain. In autumn, there were some culinary workshops solely and exclusively dedicated to mushrooms. 

First thing in the morning, I remember we received a lot of mushrooms from our suppliers, often from the town itself, and all the cooks were cleaning mushrooms for 5 hours. Imagine 8 cooks cleaning boxes of mushrooms to have enough for two or three days.

What we used to do was to cook them, store them, ration them, and it took us a long time. Some are cleaned underwater and others with clean washcloths. We used a lot of washcloths, which ended up full of sand and dirt from the mushrooms themselves. Those are fond memories of long rainy mornings cleaning mushrooms when I was young...well, now too (laughs). 

IM: What are your favorite French wild mushrooms and why? How do you prepare them?

DM: Here are some of my favorite mushrooms:

Morels.

Morel mushrooms

Morel mushrooms grow in the spring. They look like a honeycomb, hollow inside, very aromatic, and ideal for stewing. Or stuff them with forcemeat, or some kind of mousse. Morels go great with fish, meats, or cooked with fat, butter, and plenty of aromatics such as garlic, rosemary, and thyme.

Once Morels have been collected from the field, immerse them in cold water to clean them. This water must be changed every 10 minutes - about three times - to remove all the sand inside. It is essential to dry them well before cooking. At the School, we dry it with the lettuce centrifuge machine. If you store them with a little moisture, they can spoil.

If you stuff them, you can't touch them because the morels are hollow inside, you can break them. 

There is a very typical dish in France which is Morilles à la crème, which is very simple. Use shallots sautéed in butter, Marsala wine and a little thyme. Then add the morels, sauté and add a little double cream, and at the end, chopped tarragon. It is great to eat as a main dish or garnish for fish, pork, or lamb.

Chanterelle.

Chanterelle mushrooms

In spring, we have the Chanterelle. It is a mushroom with a nutty aroma, medium size, brownish-yellow. Peel the stem and clean the cap with a damp cloth.

The Chanterelle is very versatile, cooked with butter, garlic, and some aromatics herbs. It makes the perfect main dish or to accompany a meat or fish. In France, it is very typical to make crêpe stuffed with chanterelle. The mushroom is sautéed with bechamel sauce or a sauce seasoned with truffle.

Other mushrooms...

Boletus mushroomsBoletus mushrooms.

The Black Trumpet or Boletus are typical mushrooms in France. Prepare with a little bit of fat, and aromatic herbs.

Also, you can prepare Boletus or Caesar's mushroom like a carpaccio, with a good vinaigrette, pine nuts, some Modena vinegar, and a little bit of cheese. It's fantastic.

IM: In France, many cultivated mushrooms are used. Is there a tradition of cultivation? Which varieties are they?  Which are the preparations?

DM: They cultivate Oyster mushrooms or Korean mushrooms. The texture is very different when compared with a wild mushroom, because it does not have that rainwater. They are much stiffer and drier mushrooms. White mushrooms are the most common cultivated mushroom. 

In France, there is a very characteristic dish called Duxelles de champignons. It's a stuffing that has sautéed shallots in butter with a lot of chopped mushrooms, with cream or lemon juice. It’s like a forcemeat used to stuff poultry, meats, fresh pasta, cannelloni. It is mainly made with cultivated mushrooms, but you can also use it with fresh Boletus.

You can also make seafood Bouillabaisse. In season, it can be garnished with some good mushrooms at the end.    

IM: Thank you very much, Diego, for the interview. We’ve enjoyed talking with you about mushrooms. Until next time.

DM: Thanks. I love talking about mushrooms!

Notes:

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Portrait photo courtesy of Diego Muñoz, with thanks.


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