Oyster and cauliflower mushrooms, that is.
We've been looking for (edible) mushrooms on outings the last couple of years, largely without any success (see here, here, and here, which are only a few of the times we've hunted for mushrooms while out and about). We're still working on the learning curve, using a stack of references and field guides to puzzle our way through identifications and being very, very cautious about what we've picked and handled. Up until the other day, the only thing we'd picked and eaten on our own was a small bunch of shaggy manes and puffballs. Since it has been raining up in the mountains the last couple of weeks, we swung up to 9000 feet or so in a nearby range and checked around a bit. Over the course of the day, we saw elk, deer, turkeys (with half-grown chicks) and grouse (with chicks as well). Although there weren't a whole lot of mushrooms out, we did come across a couple of nice edibles.
First, we found oyster mushrooms, a good-sized bunch growing out of a log right where we'd pulled off the road. Checking that area more thoroughly, more logs had a few scattered oyster mushrooms on them, but no heavy growths. Some of them were past prime, but we managed to get a nice batch.
We also found one large shaggy mane in good condition and one large shaggy mane that was a bit too old.
Further up the hill, we came across a cauliflower mushroom. Pattern recognition is a funny thing. If I see something through brush that I think might be a piece of an animal, say a deer's ear, it will occasionally prove to be part of a deer, but more often turns out to be a branch or something else that bears a passing resemblance to fauna rather than flora. On the other hand, I'll frequently spot a deer, or other critter, that is only partially visible but I'll immediately know that I'm looking at an animal. In much the same way, this mushroom was unmistakable when spotted on the forest floor. Though I'd never seen one in the flesh before, it was pretty clear what we were looking immediately. No pictures of the mushroom in situ, though, as cameras only work when you charge their batteries. Here's what the piece of mushroom we harvested looked like back home:
Here's a pic of the oyster mushrooms, up close and looking rather shellfish-like:
We decided to try a recipe for the cauliflower mushroom that called for serving it in a salad dressed with walnuts and lemon after first sautéing it in a bit of butter.
The scent of this mushroom is unlike any other that I've encountered, not woody or fungal but rather spicy with citrus notes. The flavor was somewhat similar, although not as pronounced. The texture was really nice- toothsome with not quite a crunch. Overall, very good and something completely different from anything I've had before.
Of course, oyster mushrooms are available in the grocery store, so they weren't the same sort of surprise. These were nice and big, though, so we prepared them in a fashion similar to what we've had in a tapas bar. First, we dry sautéed the mushrooms until they had released most of their liquid, then we brushed them with a little garlic-infused olive oil and gave them a few quick turns on the grill while the meat rested, sprinkling them with salt and parsley.
A light red wine, some buttered noodles, green beans from the garden, a bit of oryx and you have a nice summer meal with just a little more wild to it than the meat alone provides.
One of these days we're going to figure out where the boletes grow, and the chanterelles, and the morels, and hedgehogs, and really big puffballs and....
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