The fog hangs thick and low over the meadow in front of the lodge early on an August morning. The sun, somehow brighter through the fog, begins to rise. A midsummer rain had kept many socked in for a couple of days; planes couldn’t fly, ships couldn’t sail, and everyone was getting anxious for the fog to lift. Once the fog lifts, the planes can fly. Once the fog lifts, the ships can sail. Once the fog lifts and everyone leaves, I’m going hunting for a king.
Two days of rain might be bad for flying in a bush plane but it’s ideal growing conditions for my favorite forageable, the boletus edulis or king bolete, and I knew exactly where to find some once the fog cleared. The king bolete is the most prized porcini mushroom, and it loves Alaskan forest floors and tends to grow in the same spots year after year.
The fog has lifted and I’m off scouting. While king boletes can grow to the size of dinner plates, I prefer to cut only young mushrooms. The younger mushroom has a firmer texture, not to mention the older the mushroom the more bugs will have moved in; yes, bugs love these fine delicacies too.
My first spot has mushrooms, but they are far too old and large (as seen above), best to leave them here to propagate for future generations. My next spot, I find exactly what I need: young, clean, and just the right size: 2.5-5 inches. I use my knife to cut the mushrooms right at the forest floor and carefully stash the bounty in my wool sack. Time for the kitchen, where I’m promoting this king to a Caesar salad.
Before consuming wild mushrooms of any kind, you should consult reference materials or an expert on the subject. If it’s your first time mushroom hunting, it’s wise to go with an experienced forager. And always cook wild mushrooms thoroughly. Rather than washing the dirt from the mushroom, I gently brush away the dirt with a horsehair pastry brush, then at a steep angle, trim the base of the stem with a sharp knife to remove the heavily soiled base. If you turn your specimen and look at the bottom of the cut end, you can see just how many bugs you’ll be dealing with. Once sliced you can pick a couple bugs out with a toothpick without damaging your final product.
2 soft boiled eggs
3 cloves of garlic
1T Dijon mustard
4T finely shredded parmesan cheese
Pinch of chili flake
Zest and juice from 1 lemon
1/2c olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Mince garlic and anchovies together to create a fine paste, don’t be afraid of the pungent anchovy, it makes this dressing perfect and omitting it would result in a sub-par sauce. Peel and rinse soft boiled eggs and place in a large glass bowl. With a whisk, break up eggs into small bits and add the garlic anchovy paste, mustard, cheese, chili, and lemon; whisk until combined. Then slowly drizzle oil while whisking to emulsify the dressing. Taste for salt and pepper and chill in fridge for up to four days.
For the Mushrooms
5-6 King Bolete or Porcini mushrooms, sliced into ⅛ inch slices
2T clarified butter or ghee
Salt to taste
In a skillet over medium-high heat with 1T clarified butter, add sliced mushrooms and cook until browned, flip and add remaining butter and salt. The mushrooms will begin to absorb the butter and seasoning. Once golden on both sides, remove the mushrooms to a paper towel to drain while building your salad. I used mixed greens from the garden but if you wanted to go more traditional you could use romaine. The great thing about this dish is that you could serve your salad as a meal itself or like I did as a starter, it looks great either way. Add a few croutons and finish with another hit of parmesan and you have a salad fit for a king.