Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Fungus Among Us

OK. Dumb overused phrase for a blog title, but quite a spectacular amount of fungus has been growing quite spectacularly right here in my house at my own behest. I couldn’t be happier about it.

These golden oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus citrinopileatus) grew from this size (caps averaged about the size of a thumbtack) on October 29…


to this size by October 31!

Ready to Be Eaten

I’d check them in the morning and by late afternoon they’d be, like, twice as big as they’d been earlier that day. Totally sci-fi. Also totally freaky and the kind of thing that is right up my alley.

The weird thing is that I was certain that that something was severely wrong when signs of growth first appeared on the bag ‘o spawn. It had developed these nickel-sized eruptions under the plastic that looked a bit like popcorn (or buboes), but not a bit like anything that could ever develop into mushrooms. (Sorry I have no photo documentation of the “plague phase,” as I now think of it.)

Anyway, last night at about 9:30 PM, I decided that I’d better harvest the mushrooms right quick before they started maturing into those big varnished looking things you see on trees out in the woods that look to be about as tough as horse’s hooves. Waiting even an hour longer could have been fatal (or so I convinced myself).

Fortifying myself with Reese’s peanut butter cups (only three Trick or Treaters came to our door), I cut all the mushrooms off the bag ‘o spawn and started flipping through my mushroom field guides and cookbooks to find out what I should do with my mushrooms. They all seemed to damn the oyster mushroom with faint praise, hailing it as a “choice edible” but in the next sentence proclaiming that it had little or no flavor but was great for providing texture to dishes. Texture? How insulting! I grew these things myself, you know! How could they be anything other than the best, most flavorful, most sought-after mushrooms ever?

I decided to make duxelle , something I’d seen a professional chef and wild mushroom enthusiast make a few years ago, but something I never dreamed I’d make. It's French and, therefore, out of my league. Unbelievably, though, I happened to have all the ingredients on hand (shallots, brandy, butter, fresh thyme), so I thought I might as well give it a go.

Duxelle, it turns out, is quite easy to make and smells absolutely wonderful (like the aroma in a fine restaurant) as the mushrooms cook down to nothingness. And the great thing is that duxelle keeps in the fridge for at least a week or in the freezer for a few months.

I don’t think it’s going to last long. About half of it ended up topping a couple of lamb steaks I made for dinner tonight (ignore the lame salad that looks like a lettuce sweater with three radish buttons). The lamb/duxelle dish was really super yummy—far yummier than most cooking experiments I attempt, even if it's not the most photogenic thing you've ever seen grace a dinner plate.

And this is only the beginning! Supposedly, the bag ‘o spawn has plenty more fungal life left in it. I just need to keep my eyes peeled for more popcorn/buboes to erupt.

Last year during NaBloPoMo, I commented and linked to a randomly chosen NaBloPoMo blog (thanks, Randomizer!) in each post, and I think I'll carry on that tradition this year. Today's random NaBloPoMo blog: Yeah, So Anyway...



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