Another series of culinary experiments in the Crispy Cook Test Kitchen has been in the making the past several weeks, with thanks to the swell folks at Marx Foods, an online fine foods market, and the Leftover Queen, our presiding monarch at the Foodie Blogroll. Our Queen provides monthly contests and opportunities to win cookbooks, chef gear, and interesting new food products for Blogroll members and I was delighted to see that Marx Foods was offering a sampler of some of their dried mushrooms.
My package arrived with a forest of fungus varieties to check out, including morels, chanterelles, matsutakes, black trumpets, porcinis and some orangey lobster mushrooms. The dried mushrooms are easy to reconstitute with a quick bath of boiling water, 10 minutes of mushroom spa soaking, and then patting dry. Be sure to save the luscious bath water for soup stock or sauces, as this contains succulent 'shroom perfume and taste.
I was smitten with the color and idea of a lobstery mushroom, so I put these to work first in simple omelette dotted with snippings of garden chives and some diced avocado. The lobster mushroom hints at a taste of the sea, but mostly it just provided some pretty carnelian color to the plate.
Less photogenic but much more tasty was my Porcini Mushroom Gravy which I spooned over some pan-fried polenta (northwest quadrant of this horrendous food photo). I reconstituted 1/2 cup dried porcinis, sauteed an onion in butter until soft, added some white rice flour to thicken, added the porcinis (diced finely after their spa treatment), 1 tsp. dried thyme, salt and pepper and stirred it around until it was thickened. What a treat!
As for the other dried mushrooms I am open to ideas about how to best feature them. I think the morels might be most sumptuously enjoyed in a creamy risotto, but if you have another way to showcase their earthy flavor, please let me know. Thanks again to Marx Foods for this awesome mushroom sampler and for the Leftover Queen for letting me in on a whole new food palette to play with.