The fungi in Western New York provide a rare “seafood” opportunity
Picture is a “crabcake” sandwich from the Vegan Hippy Chick in Ontario, Canada
By Andrew Harris
This year, I’ve enjoyed a great lobster dish, crafted after the famous “lobster pot” at the Red Osier Restaurant in Stafford, NY. It starts starts with lots of butter, some minced shallot or onion, salt, pepper. After melting the butter in the pan, lightly brown the shallot and then add the lobster. Simmer, low and slow, until the lobster meat is just cooked. Cover and let stand for ten minutes before serving with fresh lemon. Add sherry, cream, and touch of pepper and you have lobster Newburg.
Oysters Rockafeller is a another annual treat when the conditions are just right. What an easy recipe: First prepare a stuffing of bread crumbs, spinach, garlic, and cheese. Pack each oyster full of the pre-made stuffing and bake in the oven until the stuffing is browned. Lemon and hot sauce are great on top right before eating.
Probably my favorite is a crab cake that you can only find during late September, early October in the wild. After processing into jumbo lump, use your favorite crab cake recipe. Personally, I like to add just a little Hellman’s mayo, some real breadcrumbs, and Old Bay seasoning before frying up the silver dollar sized cakes. Serve with tartar, aioli, or a great seafood sauce bearnaise.
The recipes are meant to tease the appetite but also make a very interesting point: All of the above are made from mushrooms that grow wild in Western New York in great numbers. You can click on each image to read more about the edible fungi perfecti.
Oyster mushrooms emerge in the early summer by the mega ton, armies could be fed on the sheer volume that emerge from dying trees each years. Oysters are delicate and a little slippery, packed with nutrition, and can be used to mimic the ocean shellfish in many ways. The Rockafeller recipe is a play a famous standard, but they make a great oyster stuffing and fried oyster poboy also.
Lobster mushrooms are the exact color of a cooked lobster claw and share an uncanny odor and flavor of the famous shellfish. Cooking the lobster mushroom is easy, they are much harder to run afoul with than their underwater bottom feeding namesake. Lobster bisque, lobster rolls, lobster mac n cheese…. anything you can do with the ocean dweller, you can do with this mushroom. They grow most of the summer in mixed forests and tend to re-emerge in the same “beds” annually.
Hericium is the last of the season, and these mushrooms are worth the wait. They break apart into what appears to be lump crab meat and also share a seafood odor, although not as strong as the lobster. Also known as Lions Mane, or Bears Tooth, this mushroom is not just very tasty and easy to use as a crab subsitute, but a super food for your brain. After polishing off a nice plate of pan-fried cakes with spicy tartar, you can feel brain fog lift and a certain clarity of the senses. Trust me, not psychadelic at all, just like a crisping and clarifying of all senses that feels really clean. More reading on hericium’s brain boosting powers.
Lots of us have decided that eating ocean life is potentially harmful, certainly not necessary. Of course that means missing that uncanny seafood flavor, salt, and texture. Mother nature seems to have provided an alternative, and a very healthy one at that. Whether you are a vegan or a fish monger, these mushrooms provide an interesting option for the palate, the belly, and the brain!!
*One final note on safely eating wild mushrooms: Take time to make sure you have the right mushroom, one mistake could make you very ill. Luckily, these three mushrooms have very few “look-a-likes.” Read more about each mushroom(just click the images above,) before harvesting. Don’t hesistate to email me with questions/images anytime, [email protected] .
In the mood for seafood now? The Rosebush in Alfred NY has some great features this week!!