27 November 2009

Bay Bolete? Porcini? Cep?

I hope that your Thanksgiving Day was a good one, and that your Thanksgiving dinner was delicious if you had a special one.

Ours was very nice. S. the Englishwoman, now a good friend, and U. the German woman, a new friend, arrived about 12:30. We had some sparkling dry Vouvray wine, to which we added some home-made black currant (cassis from our garden) liqueur, as our pre-dinner drinks. I made prunes wrapped in bacon, cooked in a hot oven for a few minutes, and Walt made smoked salmon roll-ups filled with céleri rémoulade, for our apéritifs. Life is good.

Haricots panachésflageolets and haricots verts
are especially good with lamb.

The lamb might have been considered a catastrophe by some French chefs. It didn't come out as rare as I thought it would. That said, it was delicious — pink on the inside, crusty on the outside, with a good pan sauce made from the leg of lamb's cooking juices, some bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, garlic, and shallot, with white wine.

The quality of the cooking was what it was, but the quality of the lamb was beyond reproach. S. said it was the best lamb she had eaten in many years, and I'm sure she was being sincere and not trying to flatter anybody but the butcher. The young butcher in Saint-Aignan really seems to know what he is doing.

Bay Bolete? Or Porcini?

U. brought us a gift, since it was her first time at our house. She went out into the forest south of Saint-Aignan, which she says is owned by the people who live in the château, and she picked mushrooms. They are beautiful, as you can see from the photos. U. also brought a nice bottle of Bordeaux red wine.

They look good enough to eat!

For the first time in my life, I'll take mushrooms to the pharmacy to have them more precisely identified. U. eats them, she says, so I feel 99% sure they are safe — not toxic. The one thing that surprises me is that they have yellow spongy materiel under the caps, not gills. But I see pictures in books and on the web of good edible mushroom that have the same.

See the greenish-yellow spongy stuff?

I believe, from reading my Larousse guide to champignons, and looking at this Wikepedia article in French, that these are champignons of the variety called bolet bai. That's the Bay Bolete in English. Wiki says they are good eaten young, but these don't look so young to me. I'd better find out more before doing anything with them, and they say the pharmacist can tell you.

Whiter caps and browner caps

Here's why it's so hard to know: these mushrooms look exactly like the one in this photo I also found on Wikipedia, and it's supposedly a Boletus edulis var. grandedulis, which would make it a Cèpe de Bordeaux, one of the best mushrooms you can eat.

Tomorrow: roast goose cooked by some French people we've met over the past month. They live over in Montrichard, and we are going for lunch. I bet it's going to be good.


  1. There's some drama in your post today, Ken! I doubt that I'd find the courage to try those mushrooms, but I don't have the courage for eating oysters either.

    Be sure to tell us how those spongy ones taste.

  2. Those ceps look beautiful. I can't believe that will be your first time eating them fresh (at home). I bet the soil is really good around where you live. Like for wine, terroir makes a big difference in the taste.

  3. Roast leg of lamb one day, then roast goose the next. Sounds wonderful. And sparkling Vouvray with home-made cassis. Truly living the life in St. Aignan.

  4. Home-made cassis?!? woooooeeeee :)) I had what my French family referred to as a Cardinale yesterday... dry red wine with crème de cassis. Of course, the cassis you can get here isn't a match for French cassis.

    Our yellow squash gratin was good! My mom had found a recipe already that also included some courgettes and some sliced tomatoes. I used half grated gruyère and half grated parmesan, but I'm not sure that the parmesan melted much... there were hard parts mixed in. It was very tasty, though, and a nice new addition to our Thanksgiving table.

    Hope your roast goose lunch was enjoyable!


  5. I LOVE haricots verts, and from your description of flageolets, I'm sure I would like them just as much.

  6. Ken, if the pharmacist hasn't already told you, those pores are the good thing about ceps. They make ceps the one type of wild mushroom I can reliably recognise. I think pretty much all ceps are edible, though not all are as good as boletus edulis.

    Of course, you should find someone who knows their mushrooms and pass all your finds by them. We have a friend who's a walking encyclopedia and can identify any mushroom you present him with and tell you if it's poisonous, edible, edible but not worth eating ...


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