Today is many things – On the food calendar it’s National Cherry Popover Day.

For 365foods, it’s the first day of the last month of this little project. That’s right – we’re starting the final countdown.

And, most deliciously, it’s Mushroom Month.

Mushrooms are one of those foods that I only learned to love as an adult, and I feel like I am making up for lost time. The standard brown mushrooms in the grocery store aren’t too compelling (though I still like them fried up with a nice steak). But I’m increasingly interested in some of the rarer mushrooms that make their way into my local grocery store. I want to introduce you to two of them.

First: Lobster mushrooms. Have you seen these? They are bright red, like lobster, and kind of twisted and mottled. Strictly speaking, the red bits are not mushrooms but rather a parasitic ascomycete that grows on mushrooms, turning them the reddish orange colour. At maturity the parasite thoroughly covers its host, rendering it unidentifiable. Lobster mushrooms have a seafood-like flavor and a firm, dense texture. You often see them in recipes for chowders or risotto. Here they are in my local supermarket, and there are more photos here:

Frankly I find lobster mushrooms a little intimidating, as they *look* like something that was colonized – red and twisty and kind of scabby. But they taste delicious. 🙂

I’ve also been buying chanterelles, which are small orange or yellow mushrooms which are meaty and funnel-shaped. Chanterelles have a fruity smell, reminiscent of apricots and a mildly peppery taste. Delicious.

I thought I would put the lobster, chanterelle and brown mushrooms through a taste test with this Jamie Oliver recipe for baked mushroom caps – essentially top mushroom lids with fresh herbs, then cheese, then breadcrumbs and parsley. Bake and serve warm on salad or little wee toasts. I basically followed the recipe, but substituted manchengo for the cheese (which I would grate, rather than slice as indicated).

The result was a bit of mixed bag. I overcooked them a little which dried out all the ingredients a little – the chanterelle’s, being the least meaty mushrooms definitely suffered. The chanterelle’s flavour was very good – spicy even–but the mushrooms needed a little juice to lend to the bread. The lobster mushroom fared better, but was also dry, and frankly kind of bland. Weathering the storm was the modest brown mushroom caps – they had a nice juicy bite and carried the flavours well. If I could find bigger chanterelles, I think that would really be the ticket to bring this dish alive.

~Deanna

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