Interview

Foraging for Flavors with the RI Mushroom Company

Go mad for some delicious, local fungi

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Bob DiPietro and Mike Hallock founded RI Mushroom Company in January 2013, and they’re already about to triple in size. They’ve got a greenhouse in West Kingston where they grow wild and exotic varieties, and they’re about to build two more. Plus, they recently bought another farm in Cape Cod, and they distribute mushrooms from farms all over the world. We caught up with them to learn a bit about cooking gourmet mushrooms at home.

I saw three varieties of mushrooms in your greenhouse: Blue Oyster, Golden Oyster and Pioppino. How do they differ in terms of taste and how you’d use them?
We’re also growing Maitake, King Oyster, Beech, Shiitake, Pink Oyster and Phoenix Oyster mushrooms. Each has a specific flavor profile and texture. The Blue Oysters are very meaty with a mild flavor. Golden Oysters have a similar flavor, but are much more delicate. Both are pretty versatile and can be used in any dishes calling for mush- rooms. The Pioppino mushrooms have an extremely robust and earthy flavor – best in pasta or risotto dishes and terrific over pizza.

If I want to get beyond basic, store bought, sliced mushrooms and start cooking gourmet or wild varieties, what’s a good place to start?
Just about all mushrooms lend themselves well to sautéing. The Maitake are among the easiest to prepare. You can pull them apart like string cheese and throw them right into the pan, or break them into small clusters, drizzle with a good quality olive oil and roast in a 375° oven for 30 minutes until they’re golden and slightly crispy.

Mushrooms should be cleaned, right? What’s an easy way to do it?
Most cultivated mushrooms are pretty clean to begin with. Portabella and Crimini can sometimes be a bit dirty, but a quick wipe with a damp paper towel usually does the trick. Some wild mushrooms do come in from the field a bit gritty. I use a soft toothbrush to clean them up. If that still doesn’t work, rub with your fingers under running water and then leave on the counter to dry. You can also slice them up and throw them into a nonstick pan over medium heat and let the water seep out. Once all the liquid has evaporated, just add olive oil and cook them normally.

You source and distribute seasonal mushrooms from all around the world. What are some of the best right now?
This is a great time of year for wild mushrooms. The White Truffles from Italy are unsurpassed in flavor (and price!) and Italian Porcini are just wonderful. We’re still seeing lots of Chanterelles from the Northwest, some Black Trumpets from Sweden and Hedgehogs from Oregon should be around, too.

What’s a great way to incorporate mushrooms into Thanksgiving dinner this month?
A mixed sauté of wild mushrooms is always welcome this time of year and using mushrooms in your turkey stuffing lends a special touch. Better still, make a savory mushroom bread pudding.

What’s one of your favorite mushroom dishes to make at home?
A quick sauté of Golden Oysters tossed with egg pasta is an easy and delicious dish. Simply julienne the mushrooms, brown them really well in olive oil, add a bit of chicken or vegetable stock to dislodge the brown bits clinging to the pan and toss in the cooked pasta. Adding pat or two of butter and a bit of grated cheese at the end never hurts.

You also sell a line of five different mushroom sauces. Give me an easy, quick idea for dinner tonight using one of them.

I like using our Roasted Mushroom Ragout to steam mussels. Simply throw the sauce into the pan along with a dollop of white wine, bring to a boil and mix in the mussels. Cover, then lower the heat and simmer until all the mussels are open, stirring once or twice to make sure they are cooking evenly. Serve as is with lots of crusty bread, or over pasta. If you want a more formal presentation, take the cooked mussels out of the shell; you can use an empty mussel like a pair of tongs to get the rest out.

Find their mushrooms and sauces at the South Kingstown and Coastal Growers Farmer’s Markets on Saturdays and the Fishermen’s Memorial Park Farmer’s Market on Sundays. Their mushrooms are also used in local restaurants like Celestial Café in Exeter and the Ocean House in Watch Hill.

RI Mushroom Company | 141 Fairgrounds Road, West Kingston | 205-3999