John Eisenhart, Executive Chef at Pazzo restaurant in Portland, goes into the rugged wild of Eastern Oregon for ingredients - with tantalizing results. The mushrooms he's foraged (everything from porcini to elusive matsutake) could be considered fruits of his lifelong culinary journey. It started when he was a dishwasher at a Sonoma pizzeria, and continues today, as he makes clean and simple Italian dishes at one of Portland's favorite restaurants.
- Q: What are your favorite things to forage?
- A: Usually it's mushrooms - porcini, morels and, if I'm lucky, matsutake (a wild, woodsy variety with a spicy odor). In the summer, I look for nettles and berries.
- Q: What's your favorite dish to make with foraged ingredients?
- A: I love grilling foraged mushrooms in foil with aromatics and making tea from nettles. If I get a mish-mash, risotto always works. Also, I add them to eggs.
- Q: Where do you go to dive into nature?
- A: Eastern Oregon. This region is different at every turn, but generally speaking it's wide open and untouched ... a forager's paradise.
- Q: What's your favorite season for foraging?
- A: Summer to fall, especially in the mountainous areas that have so many varied climates. I go out two or three times a year, and it's an all-day event. In summer the weather is great and the moister areas near the mountains are where things are easier to find and I have a better chance of coming home with a bounty. Fall is great because of the rapid rate of fungi growth.
- Q: What do you bring with you when you go out there into the wild?
- A: A small knife, water, a burlap sack and warm clothes (you just never know what to expect weather-wise). Sometimes I bring a reference book, too. I rely on a mushroom book I picked up in Modena. It's all in Italian, but that's fine because there are some very descriptive pictures in it.
- Q: What are you on the lookout for, but haven't managed to turn up?
- A: Ovoli mushrooms. They're members of the Agaric family, which are largely poisonous. The mushroom actually hatches out of an eggshell-like cocoon!
- Q: What was your best thing you ever found in the wild?
- A: I found a nice spread of matsutake mushrooms once ... all very small and fragrant. After patting myself on the back, I scooped them up and used them to make a filling for boneless chicken.
More from Chef Eisenhart
Chef John's Matsutake Pane Forza with Nepitella Salsa Verde
Pazzo | 627 SW Washington, Portland, OR 97205 | Phone: (503) 228-1515 | www.pazzo.com