Further proof that all good ideas begin with a pun.
For my first mushroom cookoff with the Mycological Association of Washington, I managed to set the bar pretty high with a wicked Chicken of the Woods find. It’s the massive orange thing below. I prepared it quite simply, sautéing it with a bit of lemon zest, garlic, white wine, butter, and asparagus, but it was fresh and delicious. Plus there was a bit of an awe factor what with the fifty-pound fungi find that fueled the food.
So I felt that I had a lot to live up to for my second cookoff. Unfortunately, during my foray into Greenbelt Park the weekend before the event, I found not a single edible fungi. All I found were ticks and an itinerant “drink chef” named Robert Smith who walked here from Chicago. I obviously had to have the latter over for a dram of HG La Fée Verte (very local absinthe, if you catch my drift). The former came home without an invite.
Settling for storebought ‘shroms, however, just didn’t sit well with me. They can still be tasty, but they’re nothing special in themselves. Other myco-folks would be sharing their hard-earned hauls, so I had to do something interesting for it to feel like a fair exchange.
I don’t even recall exactly how I was struck with the idea, but I know it was a Sunday, I was in a solarium, and I had spherification on the brain. The idea was half-baked, of course, and it went something like this:
There are oyster mushrooms. Why not mushroom oysters? That would be clever. Oyster mushroom oysters?….This is a great idea.
Fresh in my memory were translucent sacs created when spherifying liquids in an alginate bath. I had recently (~4 days prior) been bit by the hydrocolloid bug. My reverse alginate spheres had always looked a bit oblong and mucousy translucent. So do oysters. A darling coincidence, to be sure.
So I made a simple oyster mushroom soup with a bit of extra calcium added, then dropped sponfulls into a bath of sodium alginate. Voila… oyster mushroom oysters. The spitting image of the real deal. Well they were a bit off. Needed something. Ah, minced scallions! Good for the soup anyway, and they add some color to the monotone guts of the soup oyster. Served with proper oyster fixings, they should be slurped like a raw oyster. The warm, savory soup bursts on your tongue. Delicious.
This hooliganery landed me second place in the cookoff out of a good 50 people. I ran out of tasting samples before the queue forming at my table had subsided, so I fantasize that I could have nabbed first if I merely had a bit more to share.