Monday, August 19, 2013

OMG a Recipe: Farmers Market Finds and Yes, Everything's Better With Butter

Farmers Market Fever is in full effect, yo. Which is to say, you may spend several trips to the market, fully bedazzled and bewildered by all the amazing fresh, local produce, and somewhat stymied over what the heck to do with a bouquet of baby artichokes, or a bag full of doughnut peaches. At least, that's how I roll when I visit the market: Dazed and Confused. Seriously, I can't decide what to get, because it all looks good and I know it always comes down to too much culinary potential, too little shelf-life freshness. But a recent trip caught me on an odd moment of laser-focus -- I picked two things, one favorite familiar and one exotic item, and it allowed me to come up with a most delicious, singular meal: penne and spinach in cream sauce, topped with herbed oyster mushrooms, toasted in butter. Ooh, la-lah, bitches.

Do you prefer clams or oyster (mushrooms)? - Photo by Wasabi Prime

I can thank my friends Sean and Madonna (no, not the 80s Brangelina, this is an awesome couple who happen to have serious 1980s Kwan with their name pairings), for telling me to check out "The Mushroom Dude" at the Redmond Farmers Market because they have some seriously good stuff, man. As hallucinogenically illicit as that sounds, it's actually Sno-Valley Mushrooms, based out of our own neck of the Duvallian woods. They sell cultivated mushrooms, ranging from familiar shiitake and oyster, to exotic lovelies like lion's mane and a crazy-bright yellow variety of oyster mushrooms. They also sell grow-your-own kits, which was what I saw at my friends' house -- I was admiring with much fungi-envy, since our mushroom log has yet to produce any more shroomy goodness. Curses! I was tempted to start another at-home mushroom garden, but then I realized I'm in utter lazy gardener mode, so I got a nice bundle of fresh oyster mushrooms. They were a little discounted, since I got them from the not-quite-perfect pile, which was fine by me, the flavor wouldn't be affected one bit.

While not that exotic, oyster mushrooms are a real treat, as are any fresh, somewhat unusual mushroom. They're very delicate, with their thin, wing-like caps, which is what makes them such ideal cooking fungi, since they cook so evenly. I find the flavor to be somewhat mild, not as heady as a morel or porcini, which makes it a nice vehicle for flavors like herbs and butter. Because, really, what's not to love about a butter vehicle? And so I set my gastronomic compass to herb/butter with my mushrooms in-hand, but not before a quick stop to get a bag of fresh, lovely Bing cherries. I know the sherbet-swirled Rainier cherries are the bomb-diggety for summertime eats, but I eschew prettier food photos in lieu of the dark, gothic, sanguine richness of Bings. I will always choose the intense, rich flavor of Bings over the more floral, subdued Rainier cherries. I could sit and eat Bing cherries all. freaking. day. and never get tired of them. I know my digestive system will rage against me, but I don't care -- Bing cherries all the way.

The odd couple, courtesy of the Redmond Farmers Market - Photo by Wasabi Prime
My indulgent, butter-fueled feast was meant to feature the mushrooms. With the exception of the lower part of the stem, you can pretty much eat everything on an oyster mushroom. Because these were cultivated, they were tender and not woody at all, so I pretty much used the entire chunk. Chopped rough, keeping most of the steam and caps intact, they were sauteed in a lovely pan of swirling, golden butter, and finished with a sprinkling of fresh sage and oregano from the garden. It didn't take long for them to soak up the butter, while toasting at the same time, getting nicely browned. They cook fast, so they don't need much time to become golden, delicious herby-butter nuggets. I tossed some cooked penne in a cream sauce with wilted spinach and garlic as a base for the oyster mushrooms, but you could put them on creamy scrambled eggs, a risotto, or even just plain pasta, lightly tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper. The star of the show is the mushrooms, so they'll go well atop anything that doesn't have too heady a flavor. Red meat might be too strong, but a grilled chicken breast would be dandy to enjoy with your buttery, herbed oyster mushrooms.

For a midweek meal, it was incredibly indulgent. You can't beat the flavor of real butter, and this absolutely celebrates that glorious dairy fat. It pairs nicely with the mushrooms, and as the butter toasts in the pan, its nuttiness compliments the subtle earthiness of the oyster mushrooms. Fresh herbs are great, especially sage, since it's got a soft, evergreen flavor that doesn't overwhelm everything else. I could go on and on about how much I loved this meal. The only thing that could match this meal was a dessert of chilled Bing cherries for dessert. 

No matter what, never skimp on the butter! - Photos by Wasabi Prime
This could be done with any lightly-flavored mushroom, like a basic button mushroom, but the oysters have such a nice, wild shape, and they soak up the flavor so nicely. I recommend doing this the next time you find yourself with a lovely bundle of these delicate fungi.

Herbed Butter Mushrooms

1 bundle (about 2 cups' worth) of cleaned, roughly-chopped fresh oyster mushrooms
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh sage, finely minced
1/4 teaspoon fresh oregano, finely minced
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a medium sized pan to medium heat on the stove. Add butter and swirl to melt. Allow it to simmer for an extra minute or two, to start toasting, before adding the mushrooms. Toss mushrooms in the butter, letting them release their moisture and soak up the butter for a few minutes. Add a pinch of salt and fresh-cracked pepper. Add the chopped herbs and continue to toss everything as the mushrooms begin to toast. When they've shriveled down to less than half their size and golden brown, remove the pan from the heat and pour the mushrooms over pasta, risotto, scrambled egg -- whatever you want to make totally amazing. 

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