Friday, July 6, 2012

This Summer….Go For the Gold
Written by Mary Ellen

A cluster of Goldens waiting for harvest.’s on all our minds... not what happens in London this summer at the Olympics, but which mushroom will we be harvesting in July?

The Golden Oyster is the obvious choice. Sure, we’ll be filling our baskets with shiitake that have been force fruited (soaking the logs 12-24 hrs in cold water), some Winecaps brought in with a cold summer thunderstorm, and maybe some wild foraged Chanterelles, but in the world of Oysters grown on wood logs, the Golden is the Queen of Summer, fruiting repeatedly when the temps hover in the 80’s.

One of many harvests from a Golden Oyster Totem.

Golden Oysters are different than the rest of the Oyster mushroom crowd; their texture is crisp, the smell is sharp, the flavor clean. For that rich, deep forest mushroom flavor, go for the more complex fall fruiters such as Polar White and Blue Dolphin, or the unusual Rose (or Pink) oyster (reserved for a later blog post), but plan on the sunny Golden Oyster for the summer. If you don’t want to eat it, make it into a vibrant garnish, or even more dramatic would be a centerpiece featuring a single Golden Oyster clump. Either way, it’s a winner.

Polar White Oyster mushroom.
Blue Dolphin Oyster mushroom.
Rose or Pink Oyster mushroom.

Golden Oyster cooking and handling notes:
Golden Oysters are very delicate so they must be handled carefully. Larger caps (4 inches across or more) may be more richly flavored, but the stems slightly bitter (and mostly unusably tough, anyway), so use the caps only on these specimens. Cleaning: These usually do not require cleaning, but some outdoor grown oysters are harvested at soil level so they may be slightly gritty. To clean, apply a fine, hard spray of water directly and quickly to the gills and cap, minimal moisture! Blot quickly with paper towel.

The vibrant golden color dims when cooked, but this can be minimized by adding them during the last stages of cooking. Most chefs now tear the mushroom rather than slice, and it is certainly faster.

Serving suggestions: These delicate mushrooms are best lightly sauteed and added to mild dishes such as noodles or fish with a light cream sauce. Serve your Golden Oyster creation with a Shiraz or a Pinot Noir (Natalie recommends Bogle Pinot Noir), or for brew loving Wisconsinites, Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy. Then… for this season only, bring your plates to the telly and enjoy the London Olympics!

Golden Oyster in the foreground and Maitake in the back.

A Golden salad for the season.
Summer Salad of Golden Oysters, Garden Greens and…

While Oyster mushrooms can be eaten raw as one might do with a button mushroom in a salad, the flavor is more complex if they are cooked first. This salad is a mix of greens dressed lightly with your favorite vinaigrette, then topped with roasted or sautéed oyster mushrooms and whatever else you have that provides a range of textures and accent flavors. Use the fresh oysters as visual garnish.

Step 1: Golden Oysters are fragile and the best ones have small caps; so if you are harvesting your own, choose caps the size of half dollars or smaller. Larger caps must be torn into pieces. Either sauté until crisp around the edges in butter or gently toss the whole caps with oil (about 1-2 Tablespoons of oil per pound of mushrooms), spread out on a baking sheet, and roast at 350 degrees (F) for about 20 minutes or until edges are browned and crispy.

Step 2: Prepare a mix of fresh salad greens and toss with your favorite vinaigrette.

Step 3: Set aside assorted textural additions; a combination of several of the following: dried or fresh cherries, celery, pea pods, sliced red pepper, cherry tomatoes, tiny cubes or crumbles of cheese, crisp pear slices and walnuts for later in the summer. Don’t ignore salty crunchy things such as roasted nuts or possibly chow mein noodles.

Step 4. Spread out the salad greens onto a big serving platter, liberally sprinkle the mushrooms over the greens and have fun adding the rest. Don’t forget to garnish with fresh Golden Oysters!

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