Hedgehog mushrooms look a lot like highly prized chanterelles, and have a wonderfully sweet and nutty flavor when fresh. As with many wild mushrooms, older specimens will take on a strong mineral flavor that is less than enticing. Avoid disappointment by only buying wild mushrooms from places with a high turnover so you don't get stuck with less-than-delicious fungus.
A fabulous way to cook hedgehogs is to quickly saute them in oil or butter and sprinkle them with salt. It's a great method with any mushrooms, and particularly useful with expensive or hard-won wild mushrooms since it lets the true flavor of the mushrooms shine.
The trick is simple: To cook hedgehog mushrooms without stewing them, cook only as many mushrooms as will fit in the pan you have in a single layer over high heat. With that in mind, know that you can double, triple, etc. this recipe, just be sure to work in batches so the mushrooms are cooking in a single layer.
- Trim and clean the mushrooms. First, cut off and discard any browned, dried, or bruised bits. Use a paper towel to brush off any dirt or, if the mushrooms are particularly dirty, give them a quick rinse under cold water and pat them thoroughly dry on paper towels. Small mushrooms can be cooked whole; larger specimens can be halved, quartered, chopped, or sliced as you like.
- Heat a large frying pan over high heat. When the pan is hot, add the butter and oil. When the butter is melted, add the trimmed and clean mushrooms. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms have released their liquid, that liquid has evaporated, and the mushrooms are tender and starting to brown, about 5 minutes.
- If adding garlic to the proceedings, do it now. Cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant and the mushrooms are browned, 1 to 2 minutes.
- If using fresh thyme, add that after the garlic. Stir to combine it with the mushrooms, about 15 seconds.
- Take off the heat and sprinkle the mushrooms with salt to taste (unsalted mushrooms really won't have the same flavor, so be generous as you sprinkle on the salt!).
Serve the sautéed hedgehog mushrooms warm or at room temperature. Mushrooms cooked this way are tasty served all on their own, but are also lovely tossed with pasta, added to pizzas, or piled on crostini on a layer of creamy ricotta cheese. Sautéed mushrooms add lots of flavor and a toothsome texture to all sorts of dishes, so feel free to experiment!