From Mushrooms to Lobsters and Back Again

cream-of-mushroom-soupI’ve been thinking a lot about mushrooms lately.  I’ve also been reading a lot of books about foraging lately.  Come to think of it, the latter probably explains the former…

While I’m not ready to go out and collect my own mushrooms – there are far too many dangerous varieties for a neophyte to gather alone – I’ve been haunting the mushroom section of my favorite produce store a lot more.  Specifically, I’ve been curious about the many curiously shaped dried mushrooms tucked in next to the fresh ones.  I finally decided to give lobster mushrooms a shot.

Are they actually going to taste like lobster, or does the fresh version look kind of like a lobster? I wondered.  Trying to guess what the final texture and appearance of a dried mushroom will be after it’s been soaked in liquid and reconstituted is difficult, to say the least.  After having cooked with the lobster mushrooms, though, I can answer my two questions: yes and yes.  The reconstituted mushrooms are reddish and rather lobster-y looking, and their flavor is decidedly (and weirdly, but in a good way) lobster-y as well, less earthy than dried porcinis and morels and more light-tasting, rather like enokis and straw mushrooms.  The texture of a lobster mushroom clinches it: it has nearly the same mouthfeel as a lobster does.  I think I have a new favorite fungi!

Cream of Lobster Mushroom Soup
Serves 4, especially if you include a hearty side like whole-grain bread and cheese

1 oz. (or more) dried lobster mushrooms
Ghee or butter for cooking (you could also use extra-virgin olive oil, but the final flavor won’t be as rich)
16 oz. baby bella mushrooms OR standard button mushrooms, sliced
1 large onion, chopped
4 cups chicken OR vegetable broth (if you use chicken broth, try to get broth made from free-range chickens)
2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 cup of cream OR half-and-half

Place the lobster mushrooms in a small mixing bowl and cover with hot water. (Tap water is fine.) Let stand for 30 minutes to soften mushrooms.

Put a pat of ghee or butter into a large stockpot and melt over medium-low heat. Add baby bella mushrooms and onion and cook for 15 minutes or until mushrooms and onions are very soft. Add broth and thyme and simmer for 10 minutes, then drain lobster mushrooms, rinse well, and add them to the pot. Simmer for another 15 minutes.*

Remove pot from heat and stir in cream, or wait until you’ve served individual portions to pour in a dash of cream for each diner. The cream will make decorative spiraling shapes in the bowl, so you might wish to go with that option to make a showier display.

Enjoy!

* If you’re really in a hurry, you could shorten some of these cooking times – cook the mushrooms and onions on medium heat for 8 minutes and do the final simmer for 10 – but using lower, slower heat enriches the flavor of the mushrooms and makes a smoother-tasting soup.

Courtesy of The Cultured Cook.

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