Mushroom Fest

Autumn is a glorious time of year in Washington state, especially if you're a lover of football or good food. Those two passions come together at tailgating time, whether you're gearing up for the Seahawks or the Cougars. However, most tailgate parties revolve around a handful of traditional foods that don't necessarily reflect what's fresh and local when football season rolls around. That's a shame when you live in Washington, with its glorious variety of ingredients. For your next tailgate, pick a signature local ingredient – such as wild mushrooms – and turn your imagination loose. Here are a few ideas to help you incorporate them into your tailgate.

Lobster Mushrooms

You can't miss these when you see them at the market. They're big and trumpet-shaped –distinctively red on the outside and creamy-pale on the inside. They gain their name from their lobster-esque appearance and from a delicate flavor that definitely tastes like seafood. They're great when sautéed or lightly stewed, and make a fine complement to real lobster, crab or shrimp. Put them in tartlets or frittatas or serve them in bite-sized puff pastry shells as an appetizer.

Cauliflower Mushrooms

If you're looking for a mushroom to feed a crowd, this is definitely the one. A single mushroom can weigh several pounds, and it’s compatible with your favorite meat dishes. With a tight mass of ruffles, it looks more like a bowl of broad egg noodles than a cauliflower. Clean the frills carefully and sauté or stew the mushroom until it's just al dente. It makes a great addition to a beefy stew, or an unconventional topping for steaks and burgers.

Chanterelles

You'll recognize chanterelles in a heartbeat, with their distinctive golden-trumpet appearance. They're one of the most readily available wild mushrooms, so they're easy to plan around. They're not your best choice for burgers – their flavor is too delicate – but they're excellent with fish or poultry. Gently sautéed chanterelles stuffed with crab make a tasty and showy appetizer.

Porcini

Porcini mushrooms grow worldwide, but the Pacific Northwest is notably rich in these fine, fleshy 'shrooms. They have a meaty texture and rich flavor, best when sautéed simply with a bit of butter and onion. Serve these beauties with your best steaks or mound them on a patty for the mushroom burger of your dreams.

Matsutake

These fabled "pine mushrooms" are rare and usually exported to Asia, so finding them is largely a matter of luck or having really, really good friends. They have an intense and slightly spicy flavor, so make them the star of your dish. Sliced thinly and sautéed, you can serve them on crackers as an appetizer. Better yet, put them in broth as a first course or cook them with rice to make a high-impact side dish.

Local Truffles

The black truffles of Perigord and the white truffles of Piedmont are hugely (and deservedly) expensive imports, but Washington and Oregon grow truffles of some distinction as well. Shop with your nose, because only fully ripened truffles have the distinctively pungent aroma that makes them valuable. Shave white Oregon truffles over any appetizer with cheese or a rich, creamy sauce. Slide wafer-thin slices of black truffle between the meat and vegetables on your kabobs, add them to the mushrooms atop your steak or dice them finely into your ground beef for a seriously upscale burger.

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