Wednesday, August 1, 2012

OMG a Recipe: The Prime Becomes a 'Shroomin' Log Lady

Holy Shiitake, Wasabi, you've got 'shrooms! You have no idea how good it feels to write that. And it's ALL TRUE! I'm literally attempting to grow mushrooms right now, and no, it's not from the casserole leftovers sitting in the corner of the fridge -- by now I'm certain those leftovers are long gone, broken free of its refrigerated bonds and taken over Panama. These mushrooms are far more mellow, and the fungi we speak of are the umami-marvelous Japanese shiitake, sprouting forth from a big ol' log.
Take a shiitake (log, that is) - Photo by Wasabi Prime
Let me preface all this homegrown mushroom talk by emphasizing I'm trying to grow them. The fungi in question are in the very early stages of incubation, aka, festering on a damp log sitting in our kitchen. I have not yet sliced off a spongey, delicate caps from a cluster of fresh shiitakes grown under our own roof. There's barely any noticeable signs of mushroom shapes as of yet, but I remain hopeful. I received this unusual and fabulous gift from friend and fellow blogger, Ms. Radish. It was a birthday gift, so I took a few days to prepare and activate the log into a growing state before letting Mother Nature and mildew take its course.

Crossing fingers we get more than fuzzy mold - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Williams-Sonoma is getting on the green garden bandwagon with their new Agrarian line of products. I know this because this is what was said on the labels that came with the log. It's a seasonal line of products because no one wants fresh heirloom tomato plants in the middle of winter, unless you live somewhere tropical. This isn't a plug for Willie-Sonoma, I'm just making note of where the log came from; there are several other specialy shops that sell grown-your-own edible mushrooms, so just consult the Google Oracles and they will set you straight. And if you're into the magical-mystery variety of shroomery, I'm sure there's some interesting sites online that will help you out with that. But I'm sticking to the legal stuff that only gives me visions of sushi and tasty udon soup.

So how does one prepare a shiitake mushroom log? The directions told me to submerge the log in filtered, unchlorinated water for 24 hours, aka, I poured many pitcher-fuls from our Brita carafe. The log is big, too wonky and oversized to fit in a large bowl to soak, so I had to take over our utility sink in the laundry room. This is tricky if you don't have an extra sink you can just sideline for 24 hours -- a large, deep roasting pan might work, and just weigh the log down with a plate. Another option was to collect a bucket of rainwater and soak in there -- normally I'd say we have a surplus of that in the Pacific Northwest, but at the time, we were having some lovely, sunny, dry weather. For future soaks, I'm leaving a bucket out to collect the rain because Occupy Utility Sink was kind of a hassle. Once soaked, I did the freezer-shock, wrapping the log in plastic and letting the log think it was winter, and then it thaws, thinking it's spring, and supposedly this is when the fungal action begins. This is where we're at right now. I have an upright log with some terrifying penicillin action all over it, and with any luck, some shiitake mushrooms will somehow appear from that. And if it just continues to resemble an upright fuzzy caterpillar, I can supposedly try-try again, with a soak/freeze/fester cycle, in the hopes this IVF-like process will hatch me some Octo-Mushrooms.

In the meantime, all this talk of shroomery gave me a wicked case of the munchies. At the risk of making this post even more laden with illicit drug references, I'm taking things to Eleven by offering up these unholy, delicious treats: Crazy Hot Cheeto Crispy Bars. For those who celebrate every day like it's April 20th.
Waiting for 'shrooms, but getting wicked munchies instead - Photos by Wasabi Prime
In appropriate stoner fashion, it's way past 4/20, and this post would have been perfect for that week, but hey, man... don't harsh my mellow with detailsThe thought of growing our own mushrooms got my immature humor working, so I thought, what hellish snack creation could I come up with that would go with a post about growing your own 'shrooms? I didn't have to think too long, there was a 2-for-1-special at the store for Crazy Hot Cheetos. No, not the typical gnarly, wizard's staff-like orange-powdered snack that we all grew up with -- Cheetos upped the ante a few years ago making them Crazy Hot. Which means, it's the same ugly, arthritic-looking puffs of fried corn-goo, it's just covered in a spicy fire engine-red powder that stains your fingers a hue even more alarming than the usual orange stuff. I would know, because I turned crack addict on the extra bag of Crazy Hot Cheetos, snacking like a fiend while I used the other bag to make these weird stoner snacks. My fingers looked like pure murder. 100% Lady MacBeth. It was the food equivalent of stealing money from a bank and having the security dye packs explode on you, highlighting your shame. Somebody call Nick Cave, I'm hard at work on some microscopic cogs in a catastrophic plan, designed and directed by my Red Right Hand.

So, what's in this mad, Snackiavellian treat that would make any stoner's eyes glaze over with lazy delight? Pretty simple: Rice Krispies, peanut butter, peanuts, marshmallows and a bag o' Crazy Hot Cheetos. It's just a typical Rice Krispy Treat recipe, modified with less of the puffed rice to make up for the pyroclastic tsunami of crushed red Cheetos, which add a super salty-spicy kick. The finished bar has the texture of an alien landscape, it bears a fearful color, and the second you take one bite, you're going to eat the whole batch in one sitting. Just remember when sharing, please... pass it on the left-hand side.
Weapons of Mass Destruction - Photos by Wasabi Prime
I see the face you're making, Food Snobs. Don't turn your nose up at these snack bars. You know you're already thinking about making it and eating it in your Shame-ber of Secrets. I'll be honest, I'm already contemplating a Funyun version. Why? Because I roll like that. And god only knows if we'll have fresh shiitake mushrooms by then, so I gotta eat something.
Crazy Hot Stoner Snax
8 tablespoons of butter
1 package of mini marshmallows
1/2 cup unsweetened peanut butter
3 cups crushed unsalted peanuts
3 cups crushed Crazy Hot Cheetos
3 cups Rice Krispies cereal

In a large pot (heh-heh), melt butter over medium-low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until melted. Add peanut butter and continue to stir until melted and fully combined. Remove from the heat and add peanuts, Cheetos and cereal into mixture and stir until everything is coated and sticky. Pour the mixture into a buttered baking dish and press the mixture evenly into the pan until it's compacted and level. Let the mixture set and cool for an hour or two. Unmold and cut into squares. Let the feasting begin.

*Post Script: Since the writing of this post, the Shroom Log had some false starts, so I tried to reboot its fungal powers, even leaving it outside to let nature try to coax the spores to do their thing.  With any luck, maybe shiitake happens.

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