In September, the first autumn rains bring out the wild honey mushroom (Armillariella mellea) briefly but abundantly. Less than one block from the busiest intersection of downtown Chapel Hill, North Carolina, lies my source, the mushrooms recurring there annually. The first picking always goes to a plump hen, which is stuffed with as many of the sautéed mushrooms as possible and roasted on a bed of fresh thyme. The bird is served with the simplest sauce—reduced pan drippings and mushrooms with the savor of fresh herbs.
The second picking soon follows, bringing with it an old mountain recipe using the first fall apples, a fit accompaniment for roasts of pork or duck. Rendered fat from the pan will serve as a sautéing medium, further binding flavors. Dried French cèpes or Italian porcini steeped in hot water or stock for ½ hour, drained, and quickly sautéed are an acceptable substitute for the honey mushroom. If you use the Champignons de Paris type of mushroom cultivated in Pennsylvania, sauté them very well to evaporate as much water as possible and concentrate their flavor.