C. fallax; C. cinereus
It takes time and faith to learn how to see something that just doesn’t seem to be there. Trying to
meet this darkly elegant and perfectly disguised mushroom for the first time requires genuine
patience. As you do with morels, you need to tune up your “mushroom eye.” When you can do this, suddenly the mushroom leaps out in relief from the optical illusion posed by these black craters scattered amid a mix of earth and dark leaves. There are no better descriptions than author David Arora’s, calling them “black petunias,” or the great mycologist Charles McIlvaine’s, describing their color as that of “well-worn velveteen . . .
Cleaning and Preparation: How I wish we could leave black trumpets whole and stuff them like dark ice cream cones, but alas, pieces of the forest fall into these lovely open trumpets. The mushrooms must be split open and cleaned inside. Grit is the enemy. If you harvest them by cutting just above the dirty part of the stem, 80 percent of the cleaning is done. After you pull them apart, holding both sides of the trumpet’s cup, run water over the mushroom as you slide your fingers down to the bottom with a little rub. If you have several pounds to clean, put the split mushrooms in a bowl of water. Agitate this brew and skim the forest debris off the top of the water. Drain the water and wash again in clean water. Wash a third time if the mushrooms are very dirty. After either process, place the wet mushrooms on a towel-lined cookie sheet. They dry out quickly. See illustrations on page 327. You can then tear them into thin strips. To create the “poor man’struffles” effect, cut across these strips to form the illusion of little squares of black truffle.
Cooking Methods: Because they are very thin, black trumpets cook fairly rapidly. They are often cooked separately and added later to a dish to prevent the “blackness” from bleeding throughout. This practice is a particularly good one when cooking them with fish or eggs.
Storage: Don’t be surprised that they can remain perfect in the refrigerator for two to three weeks. Keep a damp cloth over them to keep them from drying out.
Ideal Black Trumpets: They should be black, not gray or brittle from dryness. The tips of the trumpet cup should be the same color as the rest of the mushroom and not rubbery. “Rubber lips” are a sign of freezing, drying, or aging of the mushroom. The narrow base should be trimmed and have minimal dirt.
“Poor Man’s Truffle” Risotto
Black Trumpet Mushroom and Yukon Gold Potato Gratin
Leg of Lamb with Black Trumpet Mushroom Tapenade