If you hunt wild mushrooms, you probably know some of the flavor comparisons for well known species. Chicken of the woods taste like chicken, chanterelles smell like apricots, slippery jacks taste like viscous slugs (fresh at least), candy caps taste like maple syrup and hericium mushrooms cook a bit like crab (note that I said cooks, not distinctly tastes).
As far as the different species of hericium, from my experience: coralloides (coral shaped) americanum (multiple small tufts of teeth) and erinaceaus (one large furry clump) are all good, and I’ve picked them all in Minnesota, but I do like the asymetrical coral and americanum a little bit better than erinaceaus, just because. It should go without saying I also prefer wild hericium to cultivated, hands-down.
The little recipe here (almost silly to call it that since it’s so easy) is just a play on the hericium/crab flavor comparison, and, just like real crab, a dip in butter with herbs and a little lemon never made anything suck. Less is more. Fried herbs are a sexy garnish to any fatty, buttery thing too, and come to think of it, a little pile of fried parsley would be just as good as the sage and oregano I have pictured here, it would add height and a crispy element too.
The jist: instead of browning the mushrooms like usual, which would add fat, you cook them with steam, and add the fat to the dish afterwords. The fat here, is drawn butter, which, technically is just clarified butter.
To be honest, I never understood why clarified butter served with shellfish was called drawn: maybe it refers to the butter being “drawn” with a ladle from a pot, or more likely in my opinion, the pure butter fat being drawn out and removed from the milk solids, which would give a cloudy appearance. I’ve worked at places where it could be either thing, but for me drawn butter refers to clarified/ghee.
Clarified butter has a bigh smoke point too, and for this recipe you need that, since the herbs are basically deep fried a bit, but not so much that they overcook, just enough to crisp them and perfume the butter.
Cooking whole butter with the milk solids will not give crispy herbs until after the milk solids have browned, which would then mean you have browned butter-not necessarily a bad thing either. After the mushrooms are steamed and the butter-infused, you put the mushrooms in a bowl and spoon some of the butter on top, then finish with a shot of lemon and some crunchy salt and the table: easy money.
Steamed Hericium Mushrooms with Drawn Butter and Fried Herbs
- 1 lb hericium mushrooms
- 2 sticks 8oz salted butter (or substitute ghee and skip the clarifying process altogether)
- Fresh squeezed lemon juice to taste
- Small handful of low-moisture herbs that will crisp when frying sage oregano, or parsley are great here, (especially sage and parsley)
- Finishing salt like Maldon or Falksalt for serving (optional)
- 1 clove of garlic
- Anytime in advance clarify the butter (In restaurants I heat a pot of butter, generally a 50lb block just until it melts, then I let it sit overnight to separate). Heat the butter in a small pan like a butter warmer or even just melt it in a measuring cup like a pyrex very gently in the microwave.
- Let the butter sit until you can see the separation of the solids and fat, then carefully ladle or pour out the fat. The solids can be added to brown butter, discarded, mixed with coffee in the blender, or whatever-they're a byproduct. See alternate option for clarified brown butter below.
- Whack the clove of garlic with the back of a knife, a rock, (I use a flat, round piece of olive wood) or the meaty part of your palm. Warm the butter with the garlic just until it sizzles a bit, then cool. Discard the garlic.
- To serve, clean the mushrooms and break into morsel sizes pieces about the size of a walnut half. Steam the mushrooms until cooked and hot throughout. Meanwhile, just before serving, heat the butter with the herbs until the herbs start to fry, moniter the heat so that they frizzle and crisp, but do not burn.
- To plate, divide the steamed mushrooms into small piles between 4 shallow, warmed soup saucers or bowls, spooning some of the butter and fried herbs over each serving. Serve immediatley with seed-less lemon wedges and flaky salt on the side.