Standing out at your next potluck or holiday dinner could be as easy as heading into the woods. Phaidon’s recent book Recipes From the Woods: The Book of Game and Forage, is a guide to collecting dinner ingredients from the wild, with a heavy dose of foodporn on the side.
The book is broken down into sections based around specific ingredients like “furred game,” “feathered game,” “mushrooms, herbs, and snails,” and “nuts and berries.” While it isn’t an instructional manual for locating and harvesting wild mushrooms or garlic or watercress—nor will it help you figure out how to kill and dress deer or quail—it will teach you how to use those ingredients in the kitchen. And if you didn’t know you wanted to hunt quail or find the best mushrooms in the woods, it can provide plenty of inspiration for learning those skills.
Below, get a taste for what you could be eating with three recipes drawn from the book, which goes for $35 on Amazon. All the recipes serve four.
1. CHANTERELLE AND CHESTNUT FRICASSEE // TOTAL TIME: 35 MINUTES
3 oz. butter 3 shallots, chopped 24 chestnuts, peeled, precooked and cut into pieces 14 oz. chanterelle mushrooms 1 bunch flowering garlic chives, snipped into short lengths, 2 scapes [garlic stems] left whole, to garnish salt and freshly ground pepper
Melt the butter in a large frying pan or skillet over medium heat until foaming. Add the shallots and fry for 2 minutes without letting them color. Add the chestnut pieces and cook for about 5 minutes, or until browned. Add the chanterelles and fry for another 3 minutes, stirring constantly, over high heat. Season with salt and pepper, then remove from the heat. Sprinkle over the snipped garlic chives, garnish with the 2 scapes and serve immediately.
2. GRIDDLED ASPARAGUS WITH WALNUT SAUCE // TOTAL TIME: 20 MINUTES
For the walnut sauce: 1.5 oz. walnut pieces 1 tablespoon walnut oil For the asparagus: vegetable oil 1 lb. 5 oz. wild asparagus 1.5 oz walnut halves, chopped 1 bunch chives, chopped (optional) salt and freshly ground pepper
First, make the walnut sauce. Put all the ingredients into a small food processor and process until smooth. Set aside. Lightly oil a griddle (ridged grill) pan and place over high heat. When hot, add the asparagus and chopped walnuts and sear for 1-2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and cook for another 3 minutes. Pour in the walnut sauce and mix everything together to combine the flavors. Sprinkle with the chives, if using, and serve warm. Note: The best wild asparagus is foraged in the scrublands of southern France, in Spain, and the Maghreb countries of North Africa.
3. NETTLE GAZPACHO WITH TOMATO BREAD // TOTAL TIME: 15 MINUTES
1 bunch nettles (about 7 oz.), stalks removed 1 cucumber, peeled, de-seeded, and cut into small pieces 2 tablespoons olive oil 3 ice cubes salt and freshly ground pepper For the tomato bread: 8 slices rustic bread 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 very ripe tomato, cut in half
Blanch the nettle leaves for 2 minutes in a large saucepan of boiling salted water, then drain. Put the nettles into a food processor with the cucumber pieces, oil, and ice cubes and process until the desired consistency is reached. Season the gazpacho with salt and pepper and set aside in a cool place. To prepare the tomato bread, preheat the grill (broiler). Arrange the bread slices on a grill (broiler) pan and toast under the grill. Brush the toasted slices with the oil and rub with the cut sides of the tomato halves. Serve the gazpacho well chilled with the slices of tomato bread. Chef’s advice: Choose large nettle leaves to make this recipe as they will have more flavor and, most importantly, wear gloves when picking and handling nettles to avoid stings.
All photography by Jean-François Mallet, courtesy Phaidon unless otherwise noted.