Enjoy Gerry LeBlanc’s Shroom Book Review of Shroom: Mind-bendingly Good Recipes for Cultivated and Wild Mushrooms by Becky Selengut!
I was afraid of mushrooms.
I mean, I like mushroom pizza and mushroom gravy and sautéed mushrooms on a New York Strip steak, but those mushrooms are tame, safe. Then, I was given Shroom by Becky Selengut and facing that fear became an adventure.
We’ve all seen mushrooms at the market: white buttons loose or shrink-wrapped in a box. Those are the safe ones. But to consider the black ones, or the orange ones or the feathery clumps of fungus right next to those, is to take a step over to the wild side of life. It feels like we’re picking wild ‘shrooms right off the forest floor, even though they are likely cultivated, tamed just for us.
That’s what makes mushrooms exciting. Most of us are raised to be wary of mushrooms because they’re a wild thing, and if you don’t know what you’re doing, you could get sick. Now, here is the cookbook that will give you the confidence and appetite to explore and experience the full range of mushrooms… without fear.
The title certainly draws you in with the promise of “mind-bendingly good recipes” and it does not disappoint. I made sure to try several recipes, sampling many of the 15 varieties of mushrooms the book discusses, that I had never really understood or appreciated. Each chapter of the cookbook (focused on a single type like Oyster, Beech, Trumpet, Morel, etc.) not only provides you with delicious recipes, but also educates you on selecting, cleaning, storing and pairing each with complementary foods.
I started out with something that felt comfortable: Oyster Mushroom Ragout with Cognac and Herbs, in which Becky riffs on a classic Virginia Willis recipe. Becky added cognac, Virginia suggests that bourbon works, and I used a highland single-malt whiskey we had in the cabinet. I was thrilled to use the fresh parsley, thyme and rosemary always on hand in my kitchen during the CSA season (pairing fresh herbs and mushrooms is a huge plus factor). The outcome was a homerun. My family gobbled it up greedily, and everyone was eager for whatever I might bring forth next on our mushroom adventures.
What happened next was nothing short of mind-bending: King Trumpet “Scallops” with Carrot Puree, Leek and Parsley Vinaigrette. If the Oyster mushrooms were a timid first step, this was a bold jump into the unknown. King Trumpet mushrooms are huge, almost cartoonish… something a caterpillar might perch on to enjoy a hookah. The cleverness of pan-searing the fat stems as faux scallops and broiling the tops as a form of bacon was awesome if not magical. The meal was delicious. My wife and teenage son and daughter were duly impressed. This King Trumpet trick was a favorite subject of my conversations for many days after, and so I got bolder.
I was now bold enough to go deep into the wilds – wild ‘shrooms, that is. While cruising the farmer’s market, I came across a purveyor of local, wild Lion’s Mane. This is a furry white clump of stuff not at all like the stem-and-cap kind of mushroom we are familiar with. But I felt that with the ample support of Becky Selengut’s cookbook, I was sure to make this into something amazing. I chose a classic preparation from the book with garlic, lemon and vermouth so that we could get a good sense of this spongy fungus. It could easily have been a substitute for crabmeat, and it browned up sweet and springy like a tender white meat. There was much rejoicing, and not enough to go around, which is always a good sign.
In addition to the joy that has come from trying new things in the kitchen, this book also opened my mind to what the cookbook genre can be. It is part culinary, part biography, part biology and even part comedy (there’s a fun spread where you can determine “What ‘shroom are you” with a flow-chart-type personality test). I actually read this book cover-to-cover, and shared it on our coffee table for a while before it took its place among the other cookbooks in our kitchen bookshelf.
If you find yourself a little bored with the usual dinner options at the market; if you feel both trepidation and intrigue at the thought of mushrooms with names like Hedgehog, Chanterelle, Shiitake, Lobster or Black Trumpet, you’re not alone. But I promise you, with the inventive recipes and guides for preparation, selection and nutrition provided in Shroom: Mind-bendingly Good Recipes for Cultivated and Wild Mushrooms by Becky Selengut C 2014 (Andrews McMeel Publishing), facing those fears will become fun and incorporating mushrooms into your meal planning will get a whole lot easier.
You can find Becky Selengut’s book for sale on-line and in local bookshops.
Photo Credit: Clare Barboza (Image-Shiitake Noodles)
We hope you enjoyed our Shroom Book Review. We often review cookbooks that are great fits for Mediterranean Diet & Lifestyle!
More about the author:
When she’s not squid jigging, fishing or cavorting through the woods picking wild things for her next meal, Becky Selengut is a private chef, author, humorist and cooking teacher. A regular instructor for PCC Natural Markets since 2004, Selengut is also an adjunct professor in the culinary/nutrition department at Bastyr University. Selengut is the author of Good Fish: Sustainable Seafood Recipes from the Pacific Coast (Sasquatch 2011). Her wife, sommelier April Pogue, contributed the wine pairings. Shroom will be her third book. In the near future, Selengut hopes to clone herself so she can find the time to do more of these fun things other people call ‘work’