Lately I’ve been powdering my dried wild mushrooms, batch after batch and species after species, then attempting to use the powders in various kitchen concoctions.
First were the porcini (Boletus edulis), from which I made a divine sauce, followed by not-so-bad hawks wings (Sarcodon imbricatus) venison marinade and cream sauce. Short-stemmed slippery jacks (Suillus brevipes) were a logical choice after that—in part because I have so many, and in part because I refuse to believe them inferior despite their reputation.
I went through a phase obsessing about Suillus brevipes this fall.
Said me on the Facebook: “Not to harp on the (short-stemmed) slippery jacks or anything, but I’m growing very fond of these guys. I’m tempted to say they rival Boletus edulis, but I think Butter at Hunger and Thirst might have my head for it.” (This because Butter is such a porcini fanatic as to pass up the short, slippery dudes.)
Instead, it was esteemed wild chef Hank Shaw who stood up in defense of the King: “[Short-stemmed slippery jacks] most definitely do not rival porcini,” he commented. “But unlike most mushroom snobs, I like them. I peel the cap and dry them and use them as ‘dried porcini’ that way. I find they have a stronger flavor than many B. edulis.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but not bad.
Last summer was a dry and busy one, and Suillus brevipes were among the most common and convenient mushrooms we found, so I guess that might have been part of their appeal. We like ours best fresh, dry sautéed, then sautéed a bit longer in butter.
Commenter Prue opined that the best way to use them is to dehydrate and then rehydrate; she reported collecting 20 kg of the related Suillus luteus that summer. (Note the comment below on adverse affects from S. luteus by northeastern U.S. mycophagist/author David Spahr.)
So things were starting to sound good—people liking Suillus and all. But then, just when I think my short friend Jack is in the clear, Maria at Green Gabbro goes and includes him on her “Do Less” list—as in, forage less this year—in her post, Lessons from the Pantry.
“Suillus spp. – in theory it can be powdered for a nice soup stock; in practice I always have a slight surplus of frozen chicken broth from my scrap-bag,” she writes.
But can’t you just mix chicken stock and Suillus brevipes for an extra-tasty soup? I wondered. And that’s how the next concoction came about—as part of my ongoing efforts to defend the virtues of Suillus brevipes. I mean, he already has a short stem, the poor slippery jack!
I ended up making a cream of chicken and mushroom soup by boiling a chicken carcass down into a stock, straining, and adding a couple tablespoons of S. brevipes powder, cubed potatoes, diced carrot and garlic, a few cups of dried nettles (Urtica dioica), dried Yucca glauca flowers, and chicken, plus a roué of flour, butter and milk to thicken.
It was a lot of flavors to blend between the chicken broth, mushroom powder, and nettles, but I think they worked together nicely.
Gregg said: “I’m not sure I tasted the mushrooms but it had a rich, earthy flavor to it, and it was a chicken soup, and I liked all the potatoes.”
Hmm. Maybe next time I’ll dump more Suillus brevipes in there. After all, this is supposed to be about the mushroom and not chicken and potatoes!
NOTE: Post updated 3.18.13 to include “short-stemmed” on every mention of S. brevipes’ common name to distinguish it from S. luteus, know by the common name “slippery jacks,” which I have not tried, and which David Spahr commented caused him an adverse reaction upon consumption.