Surprise Mushroom Forage
Sometimes you don't look for mushrooms, but the mushrooms find you. I've mentioned on how this has been a wonderful fall season for mushrooms, and I've been foraging almost every weekend. My freezer is full of preserved mushrooms, and likewise, my pantry. I have been giving mushrooms as gifts. Because of all of this recent foraging, I have what I like to refer to as "mushroom eyes" right now. This is the phenomenon where you are so used to spotting mushrooms, that nearly everything starts to look like one. I could be driving, and I see a Styrofoam cup, and I think "puff ball," or a broken branch can look like oyster mushroom from the car at 55 miles an hour. Sometimes, they are.
On my morning commute to work, there is a small open field. Its gets mowed a few times a year, but that is it. As I drove past it in the morning, I thought, "Hmmm....those look like mushrooms." but I kept driving. On my way home, in the dark, however, they REALLY looked like mushrooms. So I pulled over, parked, and walked into the field in my heels.
yes! Yes! YES!
I scored the mother-load of shaggy mane mushrooms!
The shaggy mane mushroom (Coprinus comatus)* is a type of inky-cap fungus. These mushrooms have a VERY short shelf-life, do not preserve well, and turn into a dripping inky black mass in under 24 hours. They can be found in late spring through fall in disturbed ground - lawns, gravel paths, etc.
This mushroom is easily recognizable from its almost cylindrical cap which initially covers most of its stem. The cap is mostly white with shaggy scales, which are more pale brown at the apex. My examples are rather young, and haven't curled away from the cap yet. The free gills change rapidly from white to pink, then to black. The mushroom can grown from about 4 inches to over 15! My shaggies were about 10 to 12 inches.The stipe (stem) is hollow, which you can see in the cut photos below. The flesh is white, and the taste is a mild-mushroom flavor.
I picked the best-looking young specimens and brought them home. It was 8:30 pm, and I really needed to eat dinner and cook them. I'm not a fan of these in long-cooking preparations, so I decided to use the tried and true method of frying. This is a great preparation for almost any mushroom - you just need to make sure that they are cooked thoroughly. So I chopped them up (the steams are delicious), and prepared the three-step fry batter with what I had on hand (no bread crumbs, so grated Parmesan cheese had to do).
I hope you enjoy this recipe! I can be made with any mushroom variety and makes a great appetizer or even late-night snack. (or actual dinner, in this case!)
A perfect example to cook is above, but some pink to light brown on the gills in fine. The one below is starting to turn, and is too old to be eaten.
Parmesan Fried Mushrooms
1 lb of mushrooms, cleaned and cut into bite-sized pieces
3/4 cup of flour
1 TBSP of cream or milk
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp dry ground mustard powder
Enough vegetable, safflower, or peanut oil (or duck fat or lard) to fill a 14" high-sided pan or pot to a 2" depth.
1 lemon, sliced into wedges
1. Poor oil into the the pot. Make sure there is still about 2-3" (or more) of space between the top of the oil and the top of the pan. Insert a fry thermometer and heat to 375 degrees F.
2. While the oil is heating, slice or cut your mushrooms into same-sized pieces.
3. Prep your batter bowls. Into the first, add the flour, salt and dry spices. Into the second, add the 2 eggs with cream/milk and beat to combine. Finally, add the Parmesan cheese to the final bowl.
4. Get your dipping station ready with a place to put the coated mushrooms. (I like to use a jelly-roll pan with a small-grid pastry cooler that fits inside.)
5. Dip each mushroom piece into the flour, then into the egg, then into the cheese. The last dip will be delicate, so be gentle!
6. Once the oil has come up to temperature, and using a fry spider or slotted spoon, gently place each coated mushroom piece into the oil. Cook for 3-4 minutes, then flip (depending on the size of your pieces and the deepness of your oil). Fry for another 3-5 minutes.
Don't put all the battered mushrooms into the oil at once. Batches will be better because your oil will stay hot, and less fat will get into your food.
7. Allow to drain on paper towels, or a paper towel-lined cooling rack.
8. Plate and serve with the cut lemon wedges and enjoy!
*Please use common sense when mushroom picking and eating. This can be a dangerous activity if you are not 100% sure of what you are doing. While mushroom identification field books are handy, there is no substitute for an experienced local guide. Mushrooms can have deadly look-a-likes. This isn't to say that you cannot learn to identify mushrooms, but please use caution and proceed at your own risk. If you are interested in booking me as a guide, please fill out the form here.