Sparassis Fracas

FracasI live in a conflicted household this time of year. Yep, the Tennessee vs. Alabama football game ! A three-time University of Tennessee graduate (’72, ’88, ’95), I married Ellen, an Alabama graduate X2. It doesn’t help that I was raised in Alabama and began college at Auburn. Oh well, last Saturday was the game, and for the fourth straight year UT was on the short end. However, the 3rd Saturday in October (now the 4th Saturday), as it is still called, is also the time of year for some great fungi !! I made this picture as a photo journal reminder, that win or lose, the next day may yield betterer fruit. The Sparassis were found Sunday, and the Hen of the Woods was found on Monday.

fracasnakedSo, who was the winner ? Moi ! As a gracious winner, however, I did sauté some Hen for Ellen.

Mushroom Pot Pie

I saw this in the Oct/Nov issue of Garden & Gun magazine and tried it. It was from Chef Julia Sullivan at the Pinewood Social in Nashville. I made a couple of minor fall mixadaptations. I have to confess that my crust didn’t work as I would have liked – I made it too thick and it sagged, so here I’m recommending getting a store-bought pie crust, and then cutting the rounds to fit your bowls. I’m leaving her recipe out. I used my own Fall Mix of mushrooms as pictured to the left (Hen of the Woods, Lion’s Mane, Puffballs, Oysters, Chicken of the Woods &  Lobster). Also, I could not find fresh cippolini onions, so I bought some that were marinated in a balsamic mixture at my local grocery deli bar, and then omitted the sherry vinegar. – worked great

1/4 lb butter, cubed
1 cup flour
4 cups mushroom stock (I used chicken broth)
3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
3 cups mixed mushrooms (see above)
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 parsnip, peeled and diced
4 cippolini onions, peeled and quartered (see above)
2 celery stalks, sliced diagonally into 1/4-inch slices
1 tbsp. sherry vinegar (see above)
1/2 tsp dried thyme ( I used ground)
1 tbsp. chopped parsley (I used fresh)
Sat & pepper to taste
6 rounds pastry crust (I will use purchased pie crust next time)
1 egg and 1 Tbsp whole milk for egg wash.

Melt the butter in a medium Dutch oven and gradually add flour over medium high heat, stirring constantly, to make a roux slightly brown.

Whisk in the cold stock/broth until mixture is creamy (If it’s too thick the pie filling will be gummy). Add more liquid as needed. Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Dry sauté (sweat) mushrooms until all water is released and evaporated. Then add 1 Tbsp olive oil and pan roast until beginning to brown. Set aside.

Pan roast carrots and parsnips in 1 Tbsp oil until they are softened and begin to brown. Set aside.

Sauté onions until translucent and then add celery and cook until tender.

Fold mushrooms and veggies into the roux/stock (gravy). Adjust seasoning and let cool to room temp.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Whisk egg and milk for an egg wash
Gather six 8 oz. bowls, room temp
Cut pie crust rounds 1-inch diameter larger than bowl diameter
Brush each round with egg wash
Fill each bowl with 8-oz filling
Place rounds over each bowl, wash side town.
Carefully seal each crust to its bowl without letting the crust sag.
Brush tops with egg wash.
Place bowls on a sheet tray and bake 20 minutes.
Remove pies from oven and let rest 5-min.

Serve 6

Wood Blewits – Look ‘Fer Em

B;ewitsTwenty years ago Coleman McCleneghan piqued my interest in mushrooms. That fall, I discovered a complete fairy ring of Wood Blewits around a medium sized cedar tree in a local cemetery. I e-mailed her, all excited, and she said “Too bad!” Why? “That’s the signal that mushroom season is about over where you are.” I hope that’s not always true, because I am finding them now, and Honey Mushrooms are just beginning to show buttons, six weeks later than last year. I found these yesterday.

A good description of Blewits, Clitocybe nuda, AKA Lepista nuda can be found at: In addition to Michael Kuo’s descriptiBlewitTreeon, Bill Roody, Mushrooms of West Virginia and the Central Appalachians,  notes that they can be found in rings. My experience is varied, but I have a tip if you want to find some, and don’t know where to look – look for a dead hardwood tree, preferably oak, that is “shedding” its bark in a pile at the tree base. Blewits LOVE that debris, and if you turn the slabs of bark over you may find mycelial mats that will amaze you. Sometimes you can see the Blewits growing right out of the mat (below)





I’ve been reading some discussions on the Asheville Mushroom Club forum, and it seems others are currently finding them. True, a beginner must be sensitive to possible confusion with several species of the Cortinarius genus, but check the spore print (picture left), don’t eat singles (pick when they are in groups). Even then, I have found a batch that were difficult to distinguish because the caps fade with maturity and the gills also turn more brownish. This is a cropped section of a spore print made on aluminum foil. To my eye, it fits Kuo’s description exactly.

Edibility? My experience is that it’s a matter of personal preference. Google “wood blewit recipe”. has several and The Forager Chef at has several good recipes. I’m going to try one my self, after I go out in my garden and grab some tarragon.
UPDATE: The sauté with shallots and tarragon was very good.