Rule #1: When in doubt, do not eat(!)
Rule #2: Immediately walk, cycle or drive to the pharmacie.
Rule #3: Toss OR save and savor.
Rule #4: Discuss till you fall over in a stupor, about how to properly clean.
Rule # 5: Argue over the perfect recipe immediately after the extended conversation/debate about proper cleaning methods has been resolved.
Rule #6: Reach a decision about rules four and five.
Rule #7: Forget about all the above and enjoy one of the culinary world's greatest luxuries.
You certainly deserve an explanation at this point. At the top is a charming picture of a toadstool -- you know, just like the ones in your garden.
Immediately above is another, equally lovely picture of cepes, those rich, creamy, coveted mushrooms growing all over the Rambouillet forest (and other forests certainly, but I cite Rambouillet because as I mentioned last weekend it surrounds us).
The difference between the two pictures? Toadstools are poisonous, cepes are delicious and make one swoon with delight over every morsel. But you knew that. (However, you may not have known that when you find the two in situ. I certainly have no idea.)
Their fresh, rich, earthy odor makes the laborious task of cleaning them a pleasure -- so does a glass of Sancerre rouge and someone helping and talking with you as you work.
Now, back to rules #1 and #2: Unless you know what you're doing, you don't want to blithely eat any mushroom you come across (where we live almost everyone does know what they're picking). As for the second suggestion, in France, every pharmacie offers the free service of identifying your crops to tell you whether they are edible or whether they would be your last meal.
And, rule #5: Cepe cleaners fall into two camps.
- Those who insist it is a crime to wash them. These purists maintain all mushrooms must be brushed clean with a purpose-made, fine bristled brush.
- Those on the other side of the debate agree that mushrooms should be brushed as clean as possible and then rinsed to assure the last crunchy bits of sand and mud are removed.
The friend who gave me a huge basket of them last weekend said, "Whatever you do, don't wash them." Two other friends said, "Definitely rinse them after you brush them."
I will not tell you what we did. I will tell you we moaned with pleasure as we ate them. All the work was worth it.
P.S: Sam, My Carolina Kitchen, if you're reading this please weigh-in. Those of you who have not met Sam, you must click here. Her blog is wonderful and her joie de vivre is contageous. You'll see.