Friday, October 18, 2013

Foraged Recipe: Vegetarian "Chicken" Mushroom Tsukune


It has been forever since I have blogged. I have been feeling really down for the past month and more, in part because of things like work, but also because I have been just feeling very run down. I have every hope that things will turn around within the next few months, however, and I am trying to stay upbeat. My wonderful (in terms of picture--not performance) camera is also on the fritz, again, so that isn't helping. It seems to preferentially like to fail in the field, where I can't immediately address the issue. I also have the world's cheapest phone, so my camera phone pics have been less than stellar.

Back in the spring I predicted that this would be an insane year for the Chicken Mushroom, or Sulfur Shelf, Laetiporus sulphureus. And indeed, it has been. . .for everyone else. Somehow, throughout all of September, I have managed to just miss every single one of my chicken mushroom patches, and shown up a few days to a week late, to find a rotting, buggy mess. I missed out on easily over 100lbs of choice mushrooms this year, just from going to the wrong spots on the wrong days. It's a shame, because, in addition to being delicious, chicken mushrooms are extremely versatile.
Case in point: easily 30+ lbs of mushroom that was decayed
and full of bugs, and there was more on the other side of the log

A little old and dried out, and the edges needed
to be trimmed--but at least it wasn't buggy.
(shot with my phone's camera)
Anyway, last Sunday I found a smallish haul of Chickens. They were a couple of days past their prime, somewhat dried out, and with the edges starting to mush. Any other year, I would have passed them by. This year though, I was desperate. At least, since this is October, they hadn't gotten buggy yet, and simply needed to be revitalized. I was determined NOT to be disappointed, and decided to view the somewhat dried out mushrooms as a challenge.

I am glad I did, as this dish proved to be just what I needed to cheer myself up--easily rivals buffalo "chicken" mushroom for my favorite dish with this fungus.


I am not claiming this dish is a particularly authentic Tsukune, I didn't have any miso or mirrin, and I used fish sauce, which is generally more of a Thai or Vietnamese element. Still, it's delicious, or as my husband has said about half a dozen times tonight "oh. . .my. . .god". Which is pretty amazing since he generally isn't a fan of our once-a-week meatless dinners.

These would make a great appetizer as well, but we ate them as a main course. I served them with roasted cauliflower "steaks", and made extra sauce to drizzle over the cauliflower.


Vegetarian "Chicken" Mushroom Tsukune

Makes 20 small mushroom balls. 

5 cups of sliced chicken mushrooms. If they are old, trim them of mushy parts
Ginger, approximately a 1.5" cube, roughly chopped or sliced
5 large cloves of garlic
3 scallions, plus additional, sliced, for garnish
2 eggs (or equivalent egg substitute for vegan)
1/2 cup panko (or chickpea flour for vegan/gluten free)
3 tablespoons fish sauce (soy sauce for vegan) * 
1/2 teaspoon white or black pepper
Vegetable oil, olive oil or butter
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Sesame seeds for garnish, optional

* Real Tsukune should contain miso and mirrin. If you have these on hand use 1 tablespoon miso, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon mirrin.


Dipping Sauce


This makes enough for dipping the balls into. If you also want some to drizzle on rice or veggies, double the batch

3/4 cup of soy sauce
Ginger, approximately a 1" cube, sliced or cut into match sticks
3 large cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 serrano chille, sliced (with seeds)
1/4 cup rice vinegar
Juice & zest of half a lime (optional)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Brown sugar to taste
  1. Wisk together all of the ingredients for the dipping sauce, and set aside for the flavors to come
    together.
  2. Preheat oven to 350
  3. If your mushrooms are old, like mine, trim them carefully. Remove any mushy bits, and the "stems" too, if they are very very hard. Slice your mushrooms.
  4. If the mushrooms are old, fill a sauté pan about 1/2 of an inch deep with water. Lightly season with garlic powder, onion powder, and celery salt. Add your mushrooms and simmer, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes or so--until mushrooms are both softened and cooked through. Add more water when necessary. Once cooked, drain your mushrooms, or turn up the heat and allow the liquid to cook off. If your mushrooms are fresh, skip to step 5. 
  5. Take your now softened mushrooms (or if using young fresh mushrooms, start here), and sauté in olive or vegetable oil, or a mix of oil and butter, until cooked through and browned. Remove from heat.
  6. Add the garlic and ginger to the food processor. Process until a paste is formed.
  7. Add the cooked chicken mushrooms to the food processor with the garlic/ginger paste. Add scallion, pepper, sesame oil, and fish sauce, or mirrin/soy/miso. 
  8. Process until a thick paste is formed. At this stage, the mixture will resemble a salmon mousse. 
  9. Remove from the food processor to a bowl and mix in the eggs (or egg substitute) and panko.
  10. Mould into balls about the size of golf balls. Lay them out on a greased baking sheet and put in the oven.
  11. Bake for 15 minutes, then flip each over and bake for another 15 minutes. 
  12. Garnish with sliced scallions and sesame seeds. 
  13. Strain solids from the sauce and serve on the side of the baked mushroom balls, for dipping

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