If you’ve found a puffball mushroom before and you haven’t had them fried yet (the classic way), grab some flour, egg, and breadcrumbs and get to work next time you come score one. Puffballs can be delicious, but I’ve found that some people get turned off at the texture, which can be a little soft.
I love the texture of a properly prepared puffball, the quality of which I usually judge by the caramelization of the mushroom itself, in other words, I want puffballs fried golden brown, because they taste better. Puffballs poorly browned will have an awkward feeling in the mouth, kind of like a thin, flaccid marshmallow. If they’re browned though, they take on nutty hints of cheesey, mushroomy goodness.
Hitting puffballs with the classic flour/egg/breadcrumb method makes them into crispy little cutlets that hold their shape just like a piece of meat would, or anything that’s been breaded really. Although the mushroom itself gets kind of steamed inside it’s crispy breadcrumb coating, somehow it works. Granted, it’s hard to make fried food taste bad and I don’t bread and fry food to eat all the time, but I do keep it in the bag of tricks for when it’s useful because it tastes great.
After you’ve fried your puffballs up you can do whatever you want with them. Plenty of recipes will dump stuff all over them like cheese, gravy, etc. Generally, I like a lighter touch, although I did make a lasagna with them the other week.
An Italian, Italian American, and also Argentinian and Mexican tradition (Via Italian immigration in WW2) is the “Milanesa” (named for the Northern Italian town of Milan) or breaded cutlet, which could be from the traditional veal, or from chicken pork or beef. Most of the time, it’s served straight up, maybe with a little lemon on the side, or my favorite-an arugula salad, lemon and a little olive oil.
In the picture, I had it with an arugula salad and a few capers made from dandelion buds. Sometimes I serve capers fried too-held at room temperature and sprinkled on things. Just dredge them in flour, fry until crisp, set on a towel to dry until you need them.
Fried Puffball Mushrooms
- Fresh puffball mushrooms
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
- High heat cooking oil like grapeseed
- All purpose flour
- Panko breadcrumbs
- Eggs beaten well with a splash of dairy or water
- Fresh arugula or whatever greens you have/prefer
- Fresh lemon juice or wedge
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Preheat an oven to 225, or to a warm setting.
- Season the flour with a couple good pinches of salt and mix well. If you can grind the salt in a spice grinder, do it.
- If you haven't already, slice off the root end of the puffball and inspect for any bug damage, the flesh of the mushroom should be perfectly white, not at all greenish-yellow.
- Using a long, sharp slicing knife, slice the puffball into 1/2 inch or so slices. Liberally coat the mushroom slices in flour, then tap off the excess and dip them in beaten egg, then the panko breadcrumbs. Heat a generous amount of oil in a pan (1/4-1/2 a cup should be good depending on the size of your mushroom slices) then, when sizzling hot, add the puffballs and cook until golden brown on each side.
- Pay close attention to the amount of oil in the pan, the breadcrumbs are going to soak up a ton of oil, and you don't to let the pan get dry, think of it like a shallow deep-fry.
- Once the mushrooms are browned, place them in the warm oven on a cookie sheet with a resting rack to prevent the heat from being trapped and steaming the crispy crust until you're done with the rest.
- When the mushrooms are all fried, dress the arugula or other greens with the lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, then serve immediately.