Hello fellow foodies! Last week on my Facebook page I uploaded images of some mushrooms. They weren’t just any old mushrooms, Oh, no. They were champignons tournés (the French term for turned mushrooms), better known in English as fluted mushrooms. (See the video at the end of this post.)
I used to make these often on my very first cruise ship job back in the early 90’s. The ship was called Crown Odyssey, part of the Royal Cruise Line fleet out of Miami, FL. The Executive Chef was Australian and the Executive Sous Chef was French. They were both sticklers for classic French cuisine and techniques. As a young aspiring chef, I ate up this opportunity.
Classic French technique is just what most young cooks are seeking out and looking to master. And what better a place to do it than on the high seas working in an international galley with other like-minded culinary cowboys and cowgirls.
Champignons Tournés were an item that came up on sea days. A sea day is when the ship does not enter a port but cruises the high seas for the entire day. The kitchen staff dreaded these days because of the lavish afternoon buffets that were mandatory , since all the passengers would be on board to eat. The entire kitchen was inundated with multiple contributions to the buffet offerings. And, yes, those fun fluted mushrooms also made their much-anticipated appearance.
The making of these decorative mushrooms was pretty much an “all hands on deck” operation. Everyone participated in making them, regardless of which galley department you worked in. I worked the in the pastry kitchen on this ship. I rarely ever entered the main galley unless it was Champignon Tourné day!
I’m very glad that I did because I honed my knife skills on how to flute mushrooms and it raised my status among the head chefs and the food and beverage management. Those who could not turn a mushroom were eventually excluded from this “emergency” cavalry call to the troops. Cooking at sea is another world and vastly different than cooking on land. So, to work side by side with the talented Executive chef, and his immediate team for even a short segment of time was considered an honor and an opportunity to learn their culinary secrets and, of course, their champignon tourné techniques.
Now, many people ask- why even make a fluted mushroom? Well, the only reason to make a champignon tourné is purely for appearance. It does not make the mushroom taste any better, or cook up more deliciously. It’s basically a way to show-off a certain degree of kitchen knife skills while creating something beautifully decorative out of the humble mushroom. Dinner guests get to admire them as they ooh and aah over their stunning appearance. And don’t forget the chefs! They gained an opportunity to build some confidence and reassurance for their knife skills and earn a certain degree of culinary props. And what chef doesn’t want that? It was a win-win for everyone!
So, for old time sake, I made a few fluted mushrooms and posted those images on my Facebook page. I asked people what they thought they were called. I wasn’t surprised that most people had no clue what they were called. Funny enough, the number 1 answer I received was “star mushrooms”. Good guess – but no cigar.
After many years of not turning a mushroom, I was surprised at how quickly it came back to me. it’s like riding a bike. It jogged my memory. I decided to make a quick video this past Memorial Day weekend to show people how to make them and to share some tips and techniques. Oddly enough, as I was working with the mushrooms it occurred to me that the design of the fluted edges and the star tops were looking very patriotic. Just like the pattern on the shirt I was wearing in celebration of the holiday. Amazingly enough, in the spirit of it all, the Stars and Stripes found a way to shine in a champignon tourné!
Now it’s you’re turn. Nimble up those flute fingers, watch the video below and place some confidence back into your knife skills. Flute Away!