Saturday, 9 November 2013

Trumpets of the Dead

Frittata di Funghi "Trombette dei Morti"
Black Trumpet Mushroom Omelette

In the States or in England, if you ever see these mushrooms, they will be sold to you under the name of black trumpet mushrooms. Which kind-of describes what they look like. In Italy or France though... they are known as "Trumpets of the Dead". Which kind-of describes what they look like a little better. And so much cooler!

I had seen these many times before, but today was the first time that I actually tried them- they seem to be in-season, the price was right... and so I plucked up my courage and packed a couple of handfuls into a bag and decided to give them a go... What could be the worst thing that could happen? They weren't going to kill me now, were they? :-)

My first question when I bought them was "how do I prepare them?"- the second was, "how on earth do I CLEAN them?!?!!" as being dark grey/black in color, it really isn't easy to see where the soil and dirt is! Truth be told- these things are very interesting looking... but pretty they ain't!

So the answer to my first question was to consider them as being richer-tasting black-colored chanterelles- which made more or less sense, as they have a somewhat similar form. As to cleaning... it is a similar problem to that of cleaning their yellow-colored cousins. As with chanterelles, as far as I am concerned, the best way to clean them is to fill the sink, or a bowl, with water and to rinse the mushrooms around in it. 

They do seem delicate, but they can take it- trust me. Just give them a good (but careful of course!) rub and swish them about a bit. If you are washing the black trumpets... don't be dismayed when you see how dirty the water looks! Just pour it off, rinse once more with fresh water, and then pop them onto a rack to drip-dry. That's my method in any case. After 20-30 minutes or so the mushrooms will be dry enough to cook with. No big deal.

To make this omelette, the first thing I needed to do was to fry the mushrooms in advance and the way to do this is in a very hot frying pan with just a small pat of butter- and no salt! Salt will draw liquid out of the mushrooms and they will end up "boiling" in their own juices and not frying. Also, make sure not to have to many mushrooms in the pan at one time- fry them in too batches, as over-crowding them will have a similar effect in that they begin to give of steam as they get hot, and if they are lying on top of each other, the steam condenses on them, becomes water and boils. If they do not have more mushrooms lying on top of them when they give off steam, it just evaporates away.... Don'tcha just love science? The mushrooms are done when they turn deep black rather than dusty dark grey. Don't overcook them as they will shrivel down to a rubbery nothingness as all mushrooms do- stay ahead of the game and set them to one side whilst you prepare the eggs for the omelette.

For this little omelette I used 3 eggs, to which I added plenty of finely chopped parsley, a little grated scamorza cheese (but cheddar or any other cheese you may prefer will be fine) and the white half of a finely sliced Spring onion- the other half I would sprinkle on top of the mushrooms later. I stirred these ingredients together in a bowl, added a splash of milk, salt, pepper and some freshly grated nutmeg and started feeling really hungry as I knew that my supper was suddenly only 10 minutes or so away!

I turned on the broiler to get it ready for action in 4-5 minutes time and the stove top to get that ready for action straight away! As soon as my frying pan was nice and hot, in went the egg mix, at a relatively high heat, for 2-3 minutes, until it began to set. At that point, I began to push the base of the omelette this way and that, as you would if you were making scrambled eggs, just pushing the cooked egg aside so that the raw egg would flow into its place and cook too. I did that just enough to get all of the egg cooking, but to leave the base intact enough so that it would set.

Whilst the top of the cheesy, herb and egg mix was still not-quite set, I laid out the mushrooms, letting them sink slightly into the egg so that they would set firmly in place. I then sprinkled the remaining green part of the Spring onion on top, added a last light dust of nutmeg and a little extra cheese- and popped it into the oven to finish cooking under the broiler. In just 3-4 minutes of getting a nice toasting from above, the omelette was set, fluffy and ready to be enjoyed!

A last light sprinkle of salt and some crushed red-pepper corns added the last finishing touch, both flavor and looks-wise and a wonderful, simple meal was there, with no hard work, no fuss, but with plenty of great flavor! I know now why they call them trumpets of the dead... because I am dying to make this again already! Yum, yum, yum!

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