It is the beginning of spring and an appropriate time to venture out into the world again. Mask mandates have been lifted in New Hampshire and just across the Piscataqua River in Kittery Point, Maine where we live. This afternoon we traveled west of the Seacoast to Tamworth, NH and the New Hampshire Mushroom Company. Housed in a large warehouse-type building on the outskirts of town, the company cultivates specialty mushrooms that they sell fresh at the local farmer’s market or at their facility as well as to local produce suppliers. Here is a list of what was available:
Blue Oysters- Mild in flavor with a subtle nuttiness. Great in lighter dishes, cream sauces, creamy soups, and omelets or quiche.
Black Pearl – A meaty bold oyster. Strong flavor that holds up to braising. Great with stir fried, paired with chicken, over pasta, in quiche.
King Oyster – Meaty umami flabor, robust texture similar to a button mushroom but with more flavor. Great as a main protein. Can be sautéed, grilled, pickled, smoked.
Phoenix & Snow Oysters – Great in lighter dishes. Over pasta, with fish, in creamy soups, or with eggs.
Lion’s Mane – Mild flavor. Great with marinara sauce. Can be used as a seafood replacement in mock crab cakes and mock seared scallops.
Elms – Strong mushroom flavor. Pairs well with heavy meats and game. Delicious in a stroganoff, a bourguignon, or on a steak or burger.
Chestnuts _ Strong nutty flavor. Great for stir fries, roasted with chicken, in gravies, or stuffings.
Shitakes – Strong meaty flavor. Traditionally used in Asian dishes. Great on pizza, in stir fries, or in risotto.
We had arrived on a Sunday afternoon to take a mushroom cooking class. There were approximately a dozen people present along with Eric Milligan, the owner of the company, Alec Malenfant, the General Manager, and Kristen, a young woman on their staff. Eric had founded the NH Mushroom Company in 2013 without any prior knowledge or experience. Now his scientific knowledge of mushrooms is extensive and his creative uses for mushrooms in cooking were impressive. The cooking class was even more enjoyable due to his enthusiasm and sense of humor!
He explained how the textures and flavors of various mushrooms differed. Although they are composed mostly of water, mushrooms contain 11 essential amino acids and are good sources of protein, comparable to legumes, However, heat must be applied to break them down.
Eric started by preparing a vegetable dip for us using dried Black Trumpet mushrooms. They were dried, so he rehydrated the mushrooms and used the water, which he called the “tea,” to thin a container of hummus. Then he sautéed the chopped mushrooms in White Truffle Oil and added it to the hummus. (Eric said the Fiore brand White Truffle Oil was also fantastic on Brussels sprouts, eggs or pasta.) The dip was delicious with carrots, celery and cucumber slices as well as spread on thin slices of a baguette. Eric said the sautéed Black Trumpet mushrooms are also good added to white sauce and risotto too.
Mushrooms can be used in desserts too. Eric uses mushrooms to make a “cheesecake” with a Pecan Sandie crumb crust. The filling is two parts cream cheese, one part sour cream with a squeeze of lemon, and Candy Cap mushrooms (which taste like maple syrup) are sautéed with Black Trumpet mushrooms and blended with blueberries to make a fruit compote that is served with the cheesecake.
Next Eric introduced us to dry sautéing King Oyster mushrooms. He had cut them in chunks which resembled scallops and had scored them on one side. They browned nicely in olive oil on his gas griddle and looked just like scallops! Using the same King Oyster mushrooms, he grated them with a box grater, sautéed them on the griddle and then added barbeque sauce to create mock pulled pork. When thinly sliced and added to stock, the King Oyster mushrooms also become Vegan “noodles.”
The Blue Oyster mushrooms were next – torn vertically or shredded, they could also simulate pulled pork which were served in butter lettuce wraps. If you like your pulled pork sandwiches served with coleslaw, he suggested adding a dollop of mayonnaise and some Shitake mushroom power to prepared coleslaw or pickled Chestnut mushrooms as an accompaniment.
The Lion’s Mane mushrooms were perhaps the most interesting. They looked like giant cauliflowers and could be shredded to resemble crab meat and be used to make crab cakes. Eric roasted them on the grill until they turned a slightly bluish color and then he transferred them to the griddle. He said never to marinate mushrooms as they get mushy, but adding liquid to them while they grilled was okay. He made a teriyaki pineapple juice mixture which he drizzled over the Lion’s Mane mushrooms while he continued to brown them on all six sides until they looked like giant fried chicken breasts! They even tasted like chicken!
Lions Mane mushrooms can be sliced and sautéed with apple slices and Candy Cap Mushrooms to make a fruit dessert served with ice cream, custard or whipped cream.
All the participants in the class received a recipe packet that contained instructions on making Mushroom Jerky, Mushroom Duxelles, Kimshi, Foragers Popovers, and Mushroom and Olive Puttanesca served over pasta. I’m anxious to try them all!
Mushrooms are so versatile I read a recent article about one species of mushrooms that can survive on plastic and may be a solution for reducing landfill waste or helping to clean up our oceans.
I’m looking forward to the next class they offer – Top Ten WIld Edible Mushrooms.