Oh how I love cauliflower mushrooms. Sparassis radicata, Sparassis crispa–I don’t care if they come from the East Coast, West Coast, or Timbuktu, all I know is that they don’t grow in the Midwest, for all intents and purposes. Once in a while, when our fall mushroom season winds down in Minnesota, I might order a few, well, ok, I might order 10 lbs and eat them for a month occasionally to sate my craving.
Cauliflower fungus is special in the way of polypores as, unlike chicken of hen of the woods, they’re delicate, fluffy and wilt down to a fraction of their size when cooked. With that in mind, you can treat them a lot differently than some of their other tree-eating cousins. Steaming them is a good example.
With chicken and hen of the woods I usually like to brown them a bit, hens even more than chickens, part of the best part about cauliflower mushrooms is their frilly texture though, so they don’t necessarily need a hard sear, and, if you tried, it wouldn’t work as they’d just wilt into a pile. That being said, I have a crazy-good recipe for seared cauliflower mushroom steaks, but it will be a while before I get that one posted.
Back to the steamed caulifungus with ponzu. This was just a simple app I came up with one day to enjoy their texture, and it couldn’t be easier. You cut the cauliflower mushrooms into pieces you can pick up with a pair of chopsticks, then steam until they’re cooked (save the liquid underneath the steaming basket since it’s a rich mushroomy nectar, too). Afterword, you dip them in dueling cups of melted butter or ghee (or oil like sesame) and ponzu sauce. It’s really pure, refreshing way to eat these mushrooms, and it puts their texture at the forefront.
Can you steam other wild mushrooms here?
Yes, potentially. Small, very tender clusters of hen of the woods could be nice, as would chewy slices of Hypsizygus ulmarius. Tiny chanterelle buttons could be nice too, as would any of the Hericiums.
Steamed Cauliflower Mushrooms with Ponzu
- 3-4 oz cauliflower mushrooms cleaned and cut or pulled into silver dollar or bite-sized pieces
- Melted salted butter as needed (optional)
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
- ¼ teaspoon grated garlic
- ¼ teaspoon grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon sriracha
- ½ Tablespoon fish sauce
- Zest of ¼ lime
- For the ponzu, Combine all ingredients and mix well, put in a container with a tight fitting lid and refrigerate.
Steamed Cauliflower Mushrooms
- Put an inch or two of water in a pot with a steamer insert, add the cauliflower mushrooms, cover, bring to a simmer, turn down the heat to low and steam until the mushrooms are completely cooked, about 5-10 minutes.
- Transfer the mushrooms to a warmed plate or platter, and serve with melted butter and the ponzu sauce on the side. Serve with raw garnishes on the side, which could be as simple as a few sprigs of parsley or cilantro, a couple radishes, green onions, you get the idea.