Amanite des césars
A mushroom fit for kings
A very rare and special mushroom, considered the top of all edible mushrooms by many, one that we don’t have the luxury of meeting every year.. In France , they go for 100-200$ a lb, they are a prize. Here, few people know of them, they aren’t on the culinary lingo landscape like morels or porcini, but maybe it’s because they don’t show up much and never in any significant quantity, and are oh so very fragile, so in effect impossible to work into a menu outside the home (of a forager). But for the third week in a row now, we have been offered a generous basket from the wild – and wow.
However, it seems that Philippe de Vienne and co. are more worthy than little old me as they got first dibs, since François brought them to the market to show off, eager to share this special treat with epicureans who could fully appreciate the marvel. He preferred to give them away to the right people as opposed to sell them to people who might not appreciate them to the fullest – that’s how precious they are. I got news of this second hand, and only on the third week did I finally get a taste.. I had to remind François that the last time I tasted an Amanite des Césars was when he was courting me, and because the famous thing had been sitting in his truck for too long, it was hardly spectacular out of the pan. This is the King of Mushrooms I thought at the time? I trust my nose and palette, I wasn’t convinced.. Could both François and the French have it all wrong?
That was five years ago., and I haven’t had a chance to taste one since. Maybe now that he has me, he no longer needs to pull out the rare mushrooms to woo me, but still, I would appreciate a taste before all his new market friends.
Needless to say, I got my taste, actually more than a fair share (4 mushrooms) that I sautéed up simply and gobbled up immediately. Ça se mange tout seul. They were silky and delicate, with an omnipresent yet subtle mushroom taste. This is a sexy mushroom, a dainty mushroom, a girly mushroom. I found the taste oddly reminiscent of button mushrooms (which I love by the way), with a few layers of complexity perhaps, as well as cucumber notes (due to their water content, I suspect), and I loved the tender crunchy texture of the stem.
I am not sure I would say it is No.1 (mushrooms can be like apples and oranges) or the king of mushrooms, but it is certainly a most delicious mushroom, definitely fit for kings and the rest of us too.
We’ll never have enough to put on the menu at La Table des Jardins Sauvages, especially now that we are booked every weekend, so better they go to the market - as long as they go to someone who knows how special they are, and more importantly, that I am first in line, the king of quality control, c’mon..