Steak Of The Woods

Columbus Day weekend was perfect in the Northeast. Warm–even flirting with hot–with brilliant, clear skies and a gentle breeze, southern Vermont was a giant sensurround postcard of rural charm and autumnal magnificence. And all the rain has turned the woods into a cornucopia of fungi.

On a day hike, we discovered a huge bunch of oyster mushrooms. I was excited, and dutifully checked my Audubon mushroom app to confirm. We also went and got a second opinion from a seasoned forager, which is always a good idea. Don’t mess around with mushrooms, even easy ones like these. All told, the haul was at least a couple of pounds of immaculate, firm, elephantine lobes. I trimmed them and washed the little scurrying bugs out of the gills when we got back to the house. Please to excuse the horrible phone pictures.

What to do with them? I got some bacon going in a pan, then added sliced mushrooms once some fat had rendered off. Low and slow, they gave off their liquid and then began to brown. The kitchen smelled seriously excellent. I flipped them from time to time to get good caramelization all around, then added some shredded mizuna and a jellied puck of turkey gravy left over from the night before and tossed it all together to coat it with savory, unctious splendor.

We ate this with some oxtail stew I had made earlier, and which I’ll post about if those pictures are worth looking at. But the mushrooms stole the show. When they’re this big, they’re superbly meaty, offering dense texture and lots of umami. The gravy coating didn’t hurt, either.

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  1. Andrew
    October 13

    On Monday, I was the grateful recipient of some tuna steaks that were caught by my coworker’s husband off the Jersey Shore, not far from where I live outside of Philly. I grilled them and slathered them with a tatsoi mash. I hope you can score some local tuna yourself, in which case I will eagerly anticipate your next “Chicken of the Sea” post. Maybe you can get Jessica Simpson as a guest contributor.

    I wish I had the stones to forage wild local mushrooms. Some of my Italian friends’ immigrant relatives are quite skilled in this arena and won’t even think of eating a store bought mushroom. Fortunately, I live just minutes from Kenneet Square, PA, the Mushroom Capital of the world. I get most of my mushrooms at the farmers markets, some farmed, some foraged. But we’re lucky enough that even the worst grocery stores around here will stock reasonably fresh and local mushrooms. Not as exciting as foraging, but like you said, you don’t want to mess around. Food isn’t much fun to consume when a painful and immediate death is a potential outcome.

    P.S.: Your phone photos aren’t horrible at all. Wish you could have captured some of the scurrying bugs though.

    • Peter
      October 13

      If you start by taking a walk with someone experienced, they can help you learn to ID using all your senses, which makes a big difference over a book. It’s also useful to begin with the easy ones that are almost impossible to confuse with anything else: morels, black trumpets, chanterelles, maitake (hen-of-the-woods), chicken-of-the-woods, and oysters. I’m comfortable with all of these after a couple of years of looking and learning. Up here we have the Mid-Hudson Mycological Association, a group that schedules regular walks and includes a wide range of people from rank amateurs to experts. Maybe there’s something similar down there.

      I wish I had thought to take a shot of them still on the tree; I had to lift C up on my shoulder so she could reach the big bunch and pull them off.

  2. October 13

    Looks like there is a lot of color up your way already. I am anxious to get a bit farther NE to witness the foliage. The mushrooms look and sound wonderful!

  3. Peter
    October 14

    Try this weekend; it’s falling fast. This spot in VT was amazing, but other places had already passed peak color.

  4. October 17

    This reminds me of a dish I had at Kuleto’s: I think it was oyster mushrooms with nettles and that nice gravy glaze on fresh papparedelle pasta. I kind of miss living in a more forageable area.

  5. Tresor T-mac
    October 24

    The mushrooms look and sound wonderful!
    It looks so cool!

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