At the farmers markets I get asked a lot on how to cook with different mushrooms. I love these questions because its why I started growing mushrooms. One of the hardest things to find is fresh gourmet mushrooms and second to that includes recipes that are worth sharing. One of the most fun and fascinating mushrooms to cook with is Lions Mane. Its medicinal properties are so profound that I will have to save them for another posting. Cooking with them is very versatile, the texture and flavor can vary greatly depending on how they are prepared. Since I get to grow these wonderful gourmet varieties I have had a lot of experience cooking with them and have tried a number of recipes. My suggested techniques are as follows in order of experience.
Midwest (Mushroom) Squeeze or the "Saute Tek"
The first thing I suggest to anyone when trying any new mushroom is to just saute the mushroom. This helps you get an understanding of what the mushroom tastes like on its own, its texture, its flavor, and what meals it would go best with. For Lions Mane its structure can make this simple task a challenge. The Lions Mane has a stringy outer portion and often a dense inner core. When sauteed with traditional methods many people will find that they run out of butter or oil because the Lions Mane will absorb all the fats that its cooked with and end up with an uncooked inner portion and a crisp outer portion. The solution is to squeeze the Lions Mane of all its water by hand before sauteing. This will prevent the lions mane from soaking up all the fats that you are cooking it in and will also give the Lions Mane its firm texture that makes its taste similar to Lobster. To finish, add salt and garlic towards the end giving the garlic a chance to cook into the dish but not cook off. Since I have not heard of anyone else using this technique I call it the Midwest (Mushroom) Squeeze Technique.
The Ramen Tek
The other method that I am learning to love more and more is to saute it unsqueezed until soft and then add it to a broth based soup like ramen. Its stringy outer portion soaks up the broth and delivers a pack of flavor with each bite.
The Crab Tek
The third tech that I have tasted is to cut into half inch 'steaks' and saute in butter and with a low heat. The next step is to add garlic and continue to heat until the flavor of the garlic has mixed in. When done right this method will cause the garlic butter to soak into the Lions Mane and provide a taste and texture of crab meat that has been pre-dipped in garlic.
The BBQ Tek
I have not tried to do this yet but I have heard stories of people doing this. Some people have covered the Lions Mane with barbecue sauce and just put it on the grill like chicken. As soon as i try it I will be sure to let others know if its worth doing with their valuable mushrooms.
The Imitation Crab Cake
I have tried this method and its often the first one that people find when they search online for how to cook Lions Mane. I will say that it is a fun one to try, however, I would suggest avoiding recipes that use bread crumbs because you will lose all the flavor of the mushroom. A traditional crab cake is made with egg whites, lump crab meat, green onion, and your choice of herbs and spices. To preserve the flavor of this wonderful mushroom with this cooking Tek follow a recipe that is close to the real thing as possible.
I will continue to explore cooking with this wonderful mushroom and sharing recipes made from it. If you have success with cooking this mushroom please feel free to share your experiences. I believe that cooking is where people form relationships and come together as communities.
- Mushroom Farmer