If you are a faithful reader of this column and my cookbooks, it's no secret that, just like my entire Polish family, I'm a big fan of mushrooms.
For some cooks and their guests, mushrooms might seem more like "trick" than "treat," if they are discovered hidden under the cheese on a piece of pizza or carefully covered and disguised in gravies and sauces.
But for my taste, mushrooms in any recipes are better than the cherry that comes on top of an ice cream sundae.
As I've written about so often during the past decade, I come from a family of "mushroom hunters."
While doing a radio interview at The Lakeshore 89.1 FM, I shared one of our large mushroom treasurers with reader Lori Ann Coslet of Merrillville, who later wrote to thank me.
"I would like to thank you for the sheepshead mushroom you gave me yesterday when you visited Lakeshore Public Television and Radio studios. You don't know how excited I was to get it. I prepared it by dipping them in beaten egg, then cracker crumbs and frying them in butter. Delicious!!! We have some woods with oak trees, so I am going hunting. My father has found them in the past many years ago. However, he hasn't looked in years. Thank you again. Enjoy the beautiful Autumn. - - Lori Ann"
This time of the year, before a final "hard freeze," we love foraging for delicious fungi in the woods and grassy fields around the farm.
During the past month, I've also been bringing in some of our larger fungi finds, in the form of the variety that's tagged as "Hen of the Woods," to divide up and share with co-workers at The Times. Tender, with a distinct earthy, fresh flavor, these mushrooms my dad Chester has been busy finding this season are ideal to either batter and fry as a snack, or slice to sauté with onions, or scramble with eggs. My mom Peggy sliced some to serve in her homemade gravy with a succulent pork loin roast for our family Sunday dinner and I've shared her recipe here this week.
My oldest sister Carol's twin sons Billy and Bobby are continuing the mushroom hunting tradition. I've also included a great photo of them holding a mushroom that tips the scales at 25 pounds. I snapped this photo in 1992. And now, 20 years later, Billy and Bobby are 32, both married with their own mushroom-hunting farm family broods with big appetites.
Here's to Happy Halloween Mushroom Hunting!
And remember, never eat any mushrooms found in yards and wooded areas unless you are certain they are safe.
Peggy's Roast Pork with Carrots and Mushrooms
3-4 pound (boneless) pork loin roast
2 tablespoons cooking oil
Sprinkle of garlic powder
1 onion, chopped
1/2 package of a (1-ounce) envelope dry onion soup mix
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 cups water
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
4 large chopped carrots
1 (10.5-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
4 cups water (divided use)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 teaspoons gravy browning
DIRECTIONS: Using a covered Dutch oven, add oil and place in roast, sprinkling with garlic powder. Place on stove and brown all sides of roast to seal in juices. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and add to the roast the chopped onions, black pepper, the half package of dried onion soup mix (reserving remaining soup mixture for another recipe at a later date) and 3 cups of water. Bake for 1 hour covered. Remove from oven and add fresh mushrooms, carrots and cream of mushroom soup with 1 cup of water. Bake an additional 1-1/2 hours. Remove from oven and transfer pork roast and carrots onto a platter to cool slightly. To make gravy, simmer remaining liquid with mushrooms from roast in Dutch oven on stove over medium heat, gradually stirring in cornstarch (to avoid lumps) and adding gravy browning for color. Simmer until gravy thickens to desired consistency and serve over sliced pork with carrots served on the side. Makes 8-10 servings.