Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wild Mushrooms

Never say never...

The Kitchen Genius has been on a quest to forage for wild mushrooms for years, but they just plain scare me.  Nonetheless, we took a class with Lawrence Schuster, a member of the Boston Mycological Society,
last year thinking maybe if we learned more about it, it wouldn't be as dangerous - or scary.  I was wrong.  The class just convinced me that I would never eat a wild mushroom, never, ever, ever.

I publicly declared that sentiment in a story I wrote for the Cape Cod Times that ran yesterday.  The focus of the story was that wild mushrooms were to risky, so last Friday KG and I attended a workshop to learn how to cultivate shiitake mushrooms.  It was an awesome workshop taught by food writer Tamar Haspel who also has a fabulous blog called Starving off the Land that anyone who's into gardening and foraging for food will love.

After reading my Fun With Fungi story in the newspaper, local writer/fisherman Peter Budryk called me to tempt me to change my mind.  I met Peter a few years ago when I wrote a story about his excellent book, The Innermost Waters: Fishing Cape Cod's Ponds & Lakes.

Peter took the mushroom class with us last year and became obsessed with foraging for mushrooms.  He saw the story I wrote and wanted to know if I wanted a puffball mushroom he found yesterday.  He assured me that it was completely safe, so I headed over to his house to pick it up.  It was a big as a basketball!

While I was at Peter's house, he cut the Puffball in half to show me how to ensure it was safe. The flesh must be pure white inside and look like sliced white bread. If it looks like there is another mushroom growing inside, throw it away. That means that it is not a Puffball, but an immature Amanita and the Amanita genus includes some of the most poisonous species of mushrooms.

Peter also gave me a piece of the Chicken of the Woods he found.  Isn't it beautiful?

So last night was wild mushroom night at Casa Higgins.  We had already planned on cooking burgers on the fire pit, so mushrooms were the perfect accompaniment.  I sliced the Chicken of the Woods and sauteed it in butter for about five minutes and then added chicken stock and simmered it until it was tender.  The name comes from the fact that the mushroom is thought to taste like chicken.  I'm not so sure about that, but it was delicious. 

Not knowing what to do with the Puffball, I turned to the Internet, where I found a wonderful recipe from Hope Miller, co-author of Mushrooms in Color. Following her directions, I cut the Puffball into half inch slices, and dipped them in seasoned flour, egg and then coated them with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.  I fried them in butter until they were golden brown.

They were absolutely delicious.  The flesh of the Puffball was soft and creamy and didn't have a strong flavor on its own.  Adding the cheese coating made it taste just like a cheese stick.  We ate some of them as snacks while the burgers cooked and then added a slice to the burgers when they were finished.  Total YUM!

Parmesan Puffballs
(recipe from Hope Miller, author of Hope's Mushroom Cookbook)

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup flour
About 1 pound puffballs, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 egg, slightly beaten with 2 tablespoons water
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons butter or more if needed
2 tablespoons oil or more if needed

Mix the salt with the flour. Dip the mushroom slices in the flour, then in the egg, and last, in the cheese. Melt the butter and oil in a sauté pan or skillet and sauté the mushrooms slowly until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve at once.

* Other mushrooms you can use in this recipe: Boletes, oyster mushrooms


ames said...

That is SO cool!!! I really want a giant puffball now...

Alicia Foodycat said...

I can't believe the size of that mushroom! It's amazing! The burgers look gorgeous too.

Deb in Hawaii said...

That is one ginormous mushroom! So fun. i went foraging once with an expert in Aspen and had a blast but would never trust myself to do it without an expert!
;-) The burgers look delicious.

poppyseed said...

I just cooked a pan of wild field mushrooms--delicious. Our yard is full of puffballs right now. I tried them years ago--prepared like french-fried potatoes and found them to be lacking in flavor. Your recipe sounds much better. One of my favorites, and not hard to identify, are shaggy manes (Coprinus comatus) if you can find them.

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

Nice mushrooms you got there! I've never had the pleasure of a giant puffball but, if I do, I'll be back for the recipe.

Glad you got over the hump on wild mushrooms!

Crystal said...

Sounds great! I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.

Ashley - Dinnerware said...

Good stuff here. Happy holidays to your and all your blog readers!

Spoon and Chopsticks said...

That looks pretty good. Nice blog, btw. I'm your new follower.