Last weekend Lester and I went up to the Point Arena/Sea Ranch/Salt Point stretch of coast. Not only does this area have miles of thoroughly gorgeous beaches and bluffs, and vastly nicer weather than you would expect—it also happens to be great for mushroom collecting!
This little amusing and informative book led us to identify a swath of mushrooms growing in our cabin's backyard as the purportedly delicious Craterellus cornucopioides or horn of plenty:
My experienced mushroom-hunter friend Trevor concurred, and helped us identify another clump as Gomphus clavatus or pig's ear, another good edible:
Then we felt confident enough to cook them up.
To celebrate the great Brit tradition of Pancake Day, we used the mushrooms as a savory pancake topping (which works because English pancakes are more like crepes). Lester followed this recipe for the pancakes and, celebrating another Brit tradition of self-deprecating pun-based jokes that rely on words or usages I've never heard before, insists that I inform you that he "made a bit of a pig's ear of it." Because pig's ear mushrooms, get it? Anyway, I thought his pancakes came out well, even if they were slightly thicker than optimal because the small cast-iron pan is slightly smaller than optimal.
I cooked the two kinds of mushrooms separately, but followed the same fairly simple procedure for both. First trim the ends, tear into strips, and wash or brush the dirt off. Heat a dry cast-iron pan (no butter or oil) over medium-high heat until quite hot, then add the mushrooms and dry-saute until all the liquid has been released and cooked off; this took a few minutes for the Craterellus and very little time for the Gomphus. Turn down the heat to medium-low, add a bit of butter, and saute gently until cooked through (this is important because even edible wild mushrooms can have unpleasant digestive consequences if undercooked).
We ate the mushrooms rolled up in the pancakes, along with some caramelized shallots and a bit of creme fraiche. Both kinds of mushrooms were delicious, but the Gomphus was more flavorful and heartier; next time I might try drying the Craterellus first as some sites suggest. And hopefully there is a next time!