If the restaurant were to fail, finding a way to mass produce these would make me rich I tell you. They’re not so much a crouton as they are crispy, deep fried mushrooms, but calling them deep fried mushrooms would insinuate that they’re served hot, which they aren’t.
Personally, the word “deep fried mushroom” conjures bad tasting memories of frozen, bready, white button mushrooms out of a Sysco box I had to throw in the deep fryers at some of the first restaurants I worked in. Either way, these “croutons” or whatever you want to call them are one of the most addicting things I’ve made.
They came about a few years ago back at Heartland when we were planning for Valentine’s day. Chef came by and handed me the menu. On one of the courses I was to make was “fried oyster mushrooms”. I didn’t know exactly how he wanted them fried, so I asked. He said to dredge them in flour and cook them in the deep fryer.
Now I pride myself on creative mushroom cookery, but I hadn’t ever thought of doing that before. I was shocked at how they came out after a slow simmer at 300 degrees: deliciously crisp, with every single nook and cranny caramelized from the hot oil.
After tasting a few, my coworkers and I decided they were likely the greatest beer snack that had ever been created.
Frying mushrooms like this isn’t anything new though. Last year I was flipping through an old Jack Czarnecki book and came across a similar recipe. He took the fried fried mushrooms a step further, brushing them with mustard before dredging and frying. They take a bit longer to fry crisp than some of the other ones, but they’re just as enjoyable, and definitely more rich. I’ve adapted his version at the bottom of the post, my contribution being seasoning the mushrooms with herbs, which helps to balance the assertive mustard.
I’ve made the fried mushrooms plenty of times since, and like you might expect, it’s not only oyster mushrooms you can make these with. They are very good made with oyster mushrooms though, and I prefer to use them, probably the only recipe where I would actually recommend them, since their typically bland otherwise, and the wild ones are notoriously buggy too.
As with most things, there’s a catch. You can’t make these with meaty mushrooms like golden chanterelles, hedgehog mushrooms, maitake, sulphur shelf or lobster mushrooms. You need mushrooms that have very thin flesh, thin enough that all of their water can be cooked out in the deep fryer so that it won’t weep out after cooking and give you a soggy crust. Here’s some examples of species I’ve made these with that are definitely worth making:
- Yellowfoot chanterelles
- Black trumpets
- Pluteus species
- Fairy ring caps
The recipes here are so simple I don’t even need to list proportions, but you need to pay close attention to the method to get the same effect as the mushrooms pictured here.
Wild Mushroom Croutons
They’re at their best eaten all alone with a beer, drink, or on a little plate of appetizers, like cheese, pickles, meat and salty things. Feel free to add things to the flour to create a tasty dredge, paprika, garlic and onion powder, and dried herbs like oregano and thyme would be great.
The absolute key to making these is to deep fry them, they need 360 contact with the oil to work. Just buy a gallon or so of cooking oil, then strain it and save it for next time when you’re done. The only catch is that you can’t fry these in animal lard, which is a shame. Animal lard sticks too much to the mushrooms after they’re fried, leaving residue on them as they cool.
I should mention too-these keep perfectly for a day or two after they’re cooked, unrefrigerated in an air-tight box, but they don’t usually last that long.
- Mushrooms of your choice (picked from the species I’ve mentioned), cleaned
- All purpose flour, as needed for dredging (Buckwheat or a gluten free flour will work too)
- Oil for frying, like grapeseed, rice bran, etc.
- Kosher salt
- Put enough flour in a mixing bowl to completely bury the mushrooms. Add the mushrooms to the flour and dredge thoroughly.
- Preferably using a thermometer, heat the oil to 300 degrees in a stock pot or cast iron skillet, note that you will need at least a couple inches of oil in the pan to make it work.
- Remove the mushrooms from the flour in small batches, tapping off the excess, then add to the hot oil and cook for roughly five minutes (this will vary depending on species) or until you don’t hear sizzling (this means the water has been cooked off and the mushrooms will stay crisp and not be soggy.)
- When the mushrooms are thoroughly fried, remove them from the oil onto a paper towel and immediately season them lightly with salt, then repeat the process with the rest of the mushrooms.
- Make sure that when you lay them out on the towel after frying you don’t put them in a big pile on top of each other, which will trap escaping moisture and make them less crisp.
Oyster Mushroom Croutons With Mustard And Herbs
Adding the mustard and herbs to the mushrooms adds moisture, so these need to cook longer to stay crisp after frying. This also means you need to be careful with the heat, or they’ll scorch. They’re more tricky than the simple flour dredged version, but I guarantee they’ll disappear faster than you can say “crispy”.
- Oyster mushrooms
- All purpose flour (gluten free flour can be substituted)
- Creamy Dijon mustard
- Finely chopped herbs, as needed (I like a blend of 50% parsley, with the other half herbs like thyme, savory, marjoram, oregano, sage, bergamot….etc. Stay away from mints or basil-they’re too delicate to work)
- Kosher salt
- Cooking oil, as needed for frying
Lightly brush the gills of each oyster mushroom with mustard (be careful not to add too much, you only want enough to make the herbs stick). Sprinkle the gills with the herbs, then dredge the mushrooms in the flour. And proceed as in the recipe above.