I occasionally get approached by one of our customers holding a baggie in hand with an unidentified mushroom inside.
Sometimes customers tell me it was encountered on a walk around their neighborhood, and other times, it was growing out of the compost pile or beneath a tree in their backyard. Most commonly they say it was a specimen found while on a hike on one of our local trails, and they wonder whether it was suitable for consumption.
Admittedly, I’m not an expert in identifying mushrooms other than those most regularly enjoyed for culinary purposes such as oyster, shitake, portabella, chanterelle and cremini. My approach is usually to escort them to one of our local farmers who I know is better educated on the subject, including those who are in the mushroom business.
I do tend to generally give a quick word of advice, though. Never eat a mushroom that can’t be identified by you or those who know their way around the world of mushrooms.
Over the years, I’ve become quite fond of mushrooms, incorporating them into my meals at least once a week. While I regularly enjoy all the varieties I listed above, one of my new favorites over the past few months has been the lion’s mane mushroom.
Resembling more like a small head of cauliflower than your typical mushroom, this variety is truly intended for gourmet cooking, but is easy enough to work with in the kitchen for any novice home cook. The perfect balance of tender and meaty, this variety never disappoints.
When cooking mushrooms at home, my general method is to get the pan super hot, add some olive oil and sear away, just a couple of minutes on each side. Add some garlic, seasoning, green onion, shallots or whatever natural flavoring agent you may prefer.
Mushrooms generally tend to soak up the flavoring agents around it so make sure to minimally salt, then add more later if needed to taste.
This week I prepared seared sliced lion’s mane mushrooms with flowering cauliflower, making sure to infuse with a hearty amount of garlic.
Seared Lion’s Mane Mushrooms with Sprouted Cauliflower
1/3 to 1/2-pound lion’s mane mushroom
4 to 5 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced into thin round
1 head sprouted cauliflower, thick base discarded, cut into individual 1-inch stems with attached floret
Seasoned salt (or regular salt) to taste
4 green onions, green chopped tops cut into thin rounds, thicker white and light green bottoms cut into 1-inch pieces
Freshly cracked pepper
Slice your mushroom into quarter-inch thick cross-sections and set aside. Place garlic in a small bowl, toss in a little olive oil, then set aside. In a large sauté pan, turn to high heat and add a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Then add sprouted cauliflower and sauté for about 6 to 7 minutes, tossing occasionally.
Remove the cauliflower from the pan to a plate. In the same pan, still on high heat, add a little more olive oil.
Once the pan is hot, add the mushrooms in a single layer. Season lightly with seasoned salt. After about 2 minutes, flip the mushrooms over.
Top with the garlic and the 1-inch green onion ends and cook for about 1 more minute. Add sprouted cauliflower to the pan to warm back up and toss together. Add additional seasoning as needed to taste. Serve and garnish with remaining green onion tops.
Yield: 4 sides.