July 16, 2007-07-16
Foraging and fishing in the Mauricie
This was a week of foraging and fishing in Northern Québec , and most importantly, our first significant mushroom finds. We were on a half-work, half-play excursion to the Triton Fish and Game Club, a hunting and fishing lodge with a prestigious history deep in the woods north of La Tuque. www.seigneriedutriton.com François was there to show the staff what was edible in the surrounding forests, I was there to give cooking tips, to document it all, and mostly to have a good time. I came back with a zillion bug bites, a good tan, several lingering taste memories and a piece of mind. There’s nothing like the deep woods to calm a soupnancy down. The great thing about the Triton is the staff, who will fry up or transform your trout into tartare lakeside or in the dining room that night. The only problem was I didn’t catch any fish. Meanwhile there was a European kid who caught 17 in one morning, the little punk. Happily, a lady who had seen me on TV was generous enough to share her catch with me, so I got my tartare studded with capers, coarsely chopped onions, lemon and olive oil, so simple so f-ing good. Another gustatory highlight was the fabulous Serrano style ham the house makes that we ate night after night with onion jam and boletus oil and au naturel for breakfast.
Black raspberries, chanterelles and cèpes, corn
But the best part of our trip were the mushroom sightings. We came across whacks of boletus of all kinds, and then came back home to some beautiful young chanterelles in our backyard. A couple of cèpes (porcini) made an appearance too, so now, we’re primed. Thanks to the rain and a good amount of sun, this growing season is powering along, fruitful and in balance, everything is good. The farmers are rejoicing, and when the cultivated stuff is going well, you know the weeds are doing even better.
Our dehydrator is working hard, and every hot/dry nook and cranny is being used to dry something, oven space is precious. Many plants are flowering so we’ve got elderberry flower, sweet clover flower, common yarrow and milkweed flower drying, all for our tisane. The first black raspberries are out and so the wild blueberries and raspberries won’t be far behind. This is the one time of year when I find myself with too much great stuff - I want to put it all on the menu, but I only have five courses a night. It’s a struggle to keep my menu from turning into a convoluted mess of too many crazy sounding (and tasting) things. Even though I do believe that restraint is the quality of a truly good cook, at this time of year, minimalism does not come naturally to me. It hurts me to see perfect salsify, milkweed broccoli, live-forever and day lily buds sitting untouched in my cooler because I’m all enchanted with the newest of the new, the marine greens, the many flowers, the little peas, the corn, the chanterelles, the baby zucchini, the purselane.. I’ve got some beautiful scallops this week to accompany my sea spinach, and organic duck from a producer nearby to try, perfect for the corn and chanterelles. I think I will drop the strawberry rhubarb thing and move into the raspberry- blueberry- elderberry realm for my dessert. And I’ve got a variety of baby veg coming in from a local farmer to go alongside all the wild stuff - c’est l’abondance!