I finally have a log that’s producing pounds of Hericium coralloides dependably. These can be one of the more tricky wild mushrooms to find from my experience and most of the time if people aren’t primed to look for them, they might just pass them by as just another strange looking tree growth.
If I get asked for my go-to recipe for Hericiums, crabcakes are always the answer. Don’t get me wrong, they’re perfectly good sauteed and browned, but one of their best characteristics is their texture and flavor that strangely resembles crab meat.
The only problem can be finding enough of them to make into cakes, since you’ll need at least a good pound to serve four people, but one cake is so rich I don’t even need to have meat alongside for a meal. That being said, when the time comes that you find a nice clump of Hericium, do yourself a favor and try making them into cakes.
They’re easy to make, but there’s a couple things to know about making cakes that will both hold up while cooking, and not be too tough.
- Don’t get happy with the breadcrumbs or flour
- Be careful with the amount of eggs
- Remember that Hericiums hold a lot of water and the more you can remove before frying the finished cakes, the better (I squeeze it out after sweating them in butter)
- Use a ring mold or make one for the best shape, in a pinch just cut off part of a plastic bottle to form a plastic ring about 2 inches tall by about 4 inches wide
Here’s the recipe I’ve used over the past few years, typed up and tested.
Like I mention above, Hericium can hold a lot of water which you’ll want to cook out for the most firm, fluffy cake possible. I sweat the mushrooms until they wilt, squeeze out the water, then chop the mushrooms, recombine with their juice and cook until the mushrooms are glazed in their liquid to not waste anything, but you can just squeeze the juice out of them and discard too. If your mushrooms were very clean and you didn’t have to rinse them in water, you may not need to squeeze out much liquid at all after you’ve wilted them.
Serves 4 as an appetizer or light entree
- 1 lb hericium mushrooms
- 2 large eggs + 1 yolk
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Seasonings (can be adjusted to what’s on hand, use cilantro instead of tarragon, etc)
- Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 scallions, tender green and white parts only, quartered the long way and diced into 1/4 inch squares
- Zest of half a lemon
- 2 tablespoons fresh cut chives
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
- Good pinch of fresh chopped tarragon, plus more to taste
- Cayenne or a shot of Tabasco, to taste
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons grated high quality parmesan, like Reggiano, or if you’re in the Midwest I like Sartori (optional)
- Break the Hericium into manageable sized pieces so that you can inspect and clean it. If the mushroom is very clean, great, if it’s dirty, dip it quickly into a sink or bowl of cold water, give it a firm “swish” then wrap it in a towel to dry and weep water.
- After the mushrooms are cleaned, preferably all together in a large, high sided pan, sweat them in the two tablespoons of butter and a good pinch of salt, covering the pan with a lid to help them wilt, try not to brown the mushrooms since you want the finished cakes to be white inside, keep an eye on them so they don’t stick.
- Water will come out of the mushrooms while they cook, especially if you had to wash them. When the mushrooms are completely cooked through and wilted, transfer them to a bowl and allow to cool until you can handle them. Squeeze the mushrooms to release excess water, then reserve the mushrooms and juice separately.
- Chop the mushrooms medium-fine, then put back into a saute pan and gently cook with their juice until the pan is nearly dry then transfer the mushrooms to a mixing bowl and add the remaining ingredients, starting with the breadcrumbs. Work the mixture around to saturate the breadcrumbs, then try forming a small quarter sized piece of the mixture and cooking to check the seasoning and how the cake holds together. Adjust the seasoning if needed for, heat (cayenne) salt, lemon, and tarragon if you feel it’s needed, then take 1/4 cups of the mixture and pack into a ring mold, pressing down so they hold their shape.
- To cook the cakes, heat a cast iron skillet or other non-stick pan with the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, then fry the cakes on medium heat until golden brown, flipping them gently with a spatula so they don’t break. When the cakes are hot throughout and golden brown, serve immediately, I like them with a green salad and a little spicy mayonnaise.