Behind the French Menu gives a tasty background to French cuisine, French dishes, how they are made and how they should be served. Where there is a story behind a dish's creation and that story may aid the diner's enjoyment then that will also be included. Bon appétit!
The French love wild mushrooms and, from the end of April through September, the Weeping Bolet mushrooms are so bountiful they will be in nearly every French market and supermarket. These mushrooms have a faint smell and a mild mushroomy taste and are the mushroom behind many menu listings that include “wild” mushrooms; in season there really are lots of weeping bolets.
In the large towns restaurants may order wild mushrooms from specialist wholesalers but in the smaller towns and villages, the chefs will be working with “ramasseurs,” independent, wild mushroom and herb gatherers. The ramasseurs know exactly where to look after each rainfall; they treat the forests like a supermarket and the weeping bolet is easily spotted. The mushroom’s cap, its umbrella, is a light brown from 5cm – 10cm ( 2” -4”) across, with a white stalk, and with so many of these mushrooms at the beginning and end of the season much of the crop is dried. (Unlike many other mushrooms, the dried weeping bolet has a stronger taste than the fresh variety).
France is blessed with many pine forests, and they are the chosen shelter for many wild mushrooms, but two mushrooms prefer pine forests over other shelters; they are France’s Cèpes, members of the porcini family, and the Weeping Bolet and its family members. Finding these two mushrooms together is important as in many dishes the weeping bolet will provide the bulk and the cepe the flavor.
The weeping bolet has quite a variety of French names including Bolet, Bolet Granule, Cèpe Jaune des Pins, Bolet Jaune des Pins, Nonnette, Nonnette Pleureuse, and the oddly named Pissacan in Provence. In English, the names are the Weeping Bolet, Granulated Bolet, Butterball, and Slippery Jack.
The Weeping Bolet on French Menus:
Brouillade d’Œufs aux Bolets – Brouillade is a light version of scrambled eggs that originated in Provence. The egg whites are beaten separately and only then mixed with the yolks; that provides a light and delicate form of scrambled eggs; here the eggs are served with weeping bolets.
Dos de Maigre de Corse, Sauce au Noilly Prat, Risotto aux Bolets, Carottes– A thick cut of Corsican Meagre or Croaker, the fish, served with a sauce made from Noilly Prat, France’s first and still most popular vermouth, accompanied by a weeping bolet risotto and carrots. This Meagre from Corsica is a farmed French Label Rouge, red label, IGP saltwater fish; it is highly regarded both for its taste and the farming methods used.
Nonettes à l’Epoisses, sur Craquant de Salade– Weeping bolets cooked with Epoisses cheese, and served on a crunchy green salad. ÉpoissesAOP is strongly flavored, slightly salty, slightly nutty, very creamy, pale beige, 50% fat, cow’s milk cheese from Burgundy.
Ravioles de Cèpe Jaune des Pins, Parfumées à l’Huile de Truffe– Ravioli stuffed with the wild granulated bolet mushroom, flavored with truffle oil. Real truffle oil is made by soaking truffles or truffle shavings in olive oil. The final product adds some flavor from the truffle for use all year round.
Tartare de Bœuf Taillé au Couteau, Molets et Moutarde à l’Ancienne– A hand-sliced, beef Tatar prepared with weeping bolet mushrooms, accompanied by an old-style, coarse-grained, mild mustard. Beef Tatar, also called Steak Tatar, is a dish where the texture is 50% of the gratification; when the steak is hand-sliced rather than ground, you will notice the difference.
Suprême de Caille et Bolets Grillés– Quail breast served with weeping bolet mushrooms. The quail on this menu will be farm-raised; during the season when wild quail hunting is permitted, along with other wild game, the menu would either be called a Menu de Chase, a hunting menu, or the listing will read Caille Sauvage, wild quail.
N.B. If you are traveling in France and go foraging for wild mushrooms be careful. Do not cook or eat a single one of your finds until an expert has checked your collection. The Bolet mushroom family has, like many mushroom families, members who are poisonous and in any case, the lower stem should not be eaten. Many French villages and all towns have mushrooms experts, volunteers that have been trained by the government. Pharmacists have a list of the nearest mycologist. To ask for a mushroom expert ask for a “mycologue, ” Their services are free.
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Bryan G Newman
Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2018.
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