Nothings says a good morning like a bag of giant lobster mushrooms. Their size can be stunning, along with their heartiness against bugs. But, when push comes to shove, they can be bland simply fried up in a pan, compared with something like a morel or a chanterelle which can be at their best cooked simply.
I dry plenty throughout the year since it unlocks more of their aroma, but there are some other ways to concentrate their flavor. These cakes are a great method I came up with this year, for just that purpose.
Basically, one day I had a discussion with my line cooks about how just cooking at the stove Isn’t enough. I expect them to be creative, experiment, and contribute to menu development, since it makes them more vested in the food, and also helps them learn. A couple days later one of them came in early to play with some vegetables and pickles, one of the things he made were little cakes of shredded zucchini. That’s when I thought of making these.
You see, when I make a cake of shredded vegetables, I salt them lightly beforehand. (A little technique I learned from Julia Child) The salt allows them to release water, which would make the batter loose. Afterwords I squeeze out the water, season the the vegetables with salt, herbs, egg, and a little bit of a binder like flour.
Getting to the point, the bulk of a lobster mushrooom’s weight is made up of…water. Removing some of that water, like when the mushrooms are dehydrated, concentrates their flavor. Salting shredded mushrooms, then squeezing out the water, will have a similar effect of concentrating their flavor.
Needless to say, these crispy fried mushroom cakes are fantastic. Try them next time you have a bunch.
Lobster Mushroom Cakes
You can vary these any number of ways, like using a blend of big mushrooms like firm boletes or polypores, and the herbs can be tweaked to use what you have on hand, adding a little grated parmesan or ground, dried lobster mushrooms wouldn’t hurt either. The proportions in the basic recipe are solid though, and won’t let you down.
They’re excellent served with eggs, a little reduced tomato sauce, flavored mayonnaise, a lemon wedge, your favorite condiment, or just straight out of the pan.
Yield: 4-6 latkes, enough to serve 2-4 people as an appetizer or component of an entree
- 1/2 lb fresh lobster mushrooms, trimmed, cleaned, and washed if necessary
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste if needed
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup green onion, trimmed and diced 1/4 inch
- 1 tablespoon fresh sliced chives
- 1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
- 1 whole large egg, plus one egg yolk
- Clarified butter, animal lard, oil, or a combination, as needed for sauteing the cakes
- Shred the lobster mushrooms on a box grater or through the shredding attachment on a food processor. Mix the shredded mushrooms thoroughly with the salt, then allow to sit for 10 minutes so the salt can draw out their water. Squeeze the shredded mushrooms to remove as much water as possible, then mix with the remaining ingredients except the cooking fat.
- In a nonstick or seasoned cast iron pan, heat a tablespoon or two of the fat until hot and shimmering. Working in batches, take a couple heaping tablespoons of the mushroom mixture and form into cakes, then fry a few minutes on each side slowly, and gently, until golden brown, flip and repeat, then serve immediately.
- If you’re making a large batch, finished cakes can be held in a warm oven on a cookie rack until the others are done.