Eating outdoors with Jenna Rozelle
All photos courtesy of Natalie Rhea
There’s something about the feeling that comes with foraging, harvesting or hunting foods from the wilderness for your next meal. One that brings back the innate feeling of being a part of the whole nature and circle of life thing. Grocery stores are convenient and all, but knowing exactly where your food is coming from and choosing it from the ground yourself brings an entirely new sense of intention and connectedness to the meal. Constantly immersing herself in this lifestyle is Jenna Rozelle, a true cultivator of wild foods who works to share her nature of living off the land with others. Teaming up with All Hands, we had Jenna create a recipe that embodied her lifestyle of the outdoors and the sense of natural connection. One that is earned from the Earth and just so happens to pair rather nicely with a cranberry vodka.
- Recipe of Choice: Wild Mushroom Railroad Sandwich
- Cocktail of Choice: All Hands Cranberry Vodka Soda
What National Park would you find yourself in while cooking this meal and sipping this cocktail?
Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument
What’s your favorite way to spend time outdoors?
Looking for food, finding food, eating food.
Wild Mushroom Railroad Sandwich
The railroad sandwich is the perfect sandwich. It’s an easy pairing for almost any occasion, really, but it seems tailor-made for days spent outdoors. I discovered it after reading M.F.K. Fisher touts it as the penultimate picnic food and have never looked back. It’s akin to a pressed sandwich, but with origins in French railway stations being handed out to hordes of boarding passengers, the fuss of refrigerating overnight under a weight is skipped in lieu of being sat upon for a portion of the train ride. It sounds strange, I know, to sit on a sandwich on purpose, but when I heard her describe this method, my mind flashed to all of the poor sandwiches I’ve squashed, accidentally, in my hunting and foraging packs over the years and I knew this sandwich and I were meant to be. Fisher liked the classic: baguette, butter, boiled ham and dijon mustard, and this really doesn’t need to be improved upon, but in the fall, when I’m poking around our public lands and the wild mushrooms are fruiting, I’ve found they’re a beautiful seasonal substitute for the ham, especially since I’m much more likely to find mushrooms in the woods than pigs.
This autumnal delicacy has fast become my favorite lunch in the field, devoured around midday as a reward for the first and fuel for the second half, washed down with something bright and crisp—All Hands Cranberry Vodka Soda really hits the sweet spot. The tart cranberry is the perfect pairing to lighten up the gluttonous amount of butter and the savory pile of mushrooms, and it abides by the trusty adage —“what grows together, goes together”. Here in Maine, some of my favorite mushroom spots are right on the edges of cranberry-laden marshes.
- 1 18-inch baguette (make the extra trip to the bakery instead of the grocery store if you can, it makes a difference)
- Sweet butter (room temperature) (splurge on the good stuff here, too)
- Dijon mustard or whatever kind you like (optional)
- 2 handfuls of bitter or pungent greens such as frisee, arugula, or radicchio (optional)
- 3-5 handfuls of fresh wild mushrooms—my favorites for this sandwich are chanterelles, hedgehogs, black trumpets or maitake. I’m not going to cover identification, here, but there are plenty of resources available so do your research and never eat a mushroom that you haven’t positively identified. The delectable species listed here happen to be quite easy to learn, so don’t be deterred if you’re a beginner! Secondly, be sure to check the local laws and national park regulations on mushroom foraging, every place has different rules—don’t break them, it makes the rest of us look bad.
At basecamp in the morning before you load your pack for the day’s adventure, get out all of your ingredients.
Clean your mushrooms VERY thoroughly—a little grit goes a long way to ruin lunch. Leave smaller chanterelles, hedgehogs, and black trumpets whole, and tear the large ones in half. Maitakes can be torn apart, “leaf” by “leaf” into succulent strips.
Heat a skillet to medium-high and add your mushrooms. Saute in the dry pan for 2-4 minutes.
Once the mushrooms are mostly cooked, add a knob of butter or a glug of oil, and if you’ve got it, a good pinch of salt, stir to coat.
Cook a minute or so more and remove from heat and let cool, and you do want them to cool so as to not melt all of your butter. (This step can be done the night before.)
Hold the baguette on a flat surface, top-side up, and with your knife paralleling the work surface, slice the whole loaf in half.
With each half now split side up, pinch out about half of the crumb with your fingers, leaving each crust as a nearly hollow boat.
Slather both halves very generously with room temp butter, then the mustard on top of that.
Lay down a thin bed of greens if you’re using them.
Pile on your mushrooms (as many as will fit). Then eat the rest out of the pan for breakfast.
Put the top half of the baguette on and press down firmly. The outer crust will shatter and a few mushrooms will spill out—this is good.
Cut the sandwich into halves, stack them firmly and wrap, loosely, in paper, plastic or foil, then wrap that in a kitchen towel or a t-shirt in the case of camping.
This is the stage where Fisher would have someone sit on it for about half an hour, which you can do if you please, but for my version, put it in the bottom of your pack. Make sure it’s lying flat and oriented correctly to be pressed, then proceed with stuffing your pack with the rest of your day’s needs, starting with larger, wider things at the bottom to distribute the weight across the whole sandwich and pushing each new layer down tight. It’s amazing how transformative pressure can be, and how it tastes so much better when you squash a sandwich on purpose.