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Saturday, January 2, 2021

Cold Smoked Cherrywood Oyster Mushrooms w/ Farro and Black Garlic Risotto


 Along with the uncertainty of one moment to the next this crazy year has brought us, the same can be said  about the weather of 2020.  Just last week, here in Central Virginia, we had freezing rain, flooding, winter storms and tornado watches and warnings, all at the same time!! 2020, am I right? Granted, much of the weather's paradoxical misgivings, is due to our increasing and ever volatile climate change, but I would like to think it also has to do with the Grace of God and a certain Earth cleansing agenda.  Along with those happenings, we are doused with little sprinklings of Hope and magic in nature and omnipresence in the world, trinkets for us to find, signaling that everything will be okay, some day, soon.  Edible mushrooms are one such byproduct of time, steady moisture and luck of the draw in stumbling across the desirable ones while just living life...
The discovery of the mushrooms featured is one such jewel.  I am an avid and engaged mushroom enthusiast, learning and growing as I go. I have photo-logged at least  60 different types of fungi that flourish in our area, including the phenomenal day my cousin Bradley and I, happened upon the mother lode of fresh Morels, the 'early' variety and ultimately the only variety of the season for us, for the most part.  We gathered in excess of 120 mushrooms that afternoon.  I encouraged Bradley to assist with his trusty pocket knife, cutting just above where the mushroom's trunk exits the ground, to leave the remnants in case there were spores left behind, to be further spread by the wind and woodland creatures alike. 
 The mushroom itself grows underground and the visible portion is called the fruit or fruiting body.  Prior to this magnificent marvel of an event, I had only found 3 in the wild in several years, while Brad had never even heard of nor seen one, until that day in late March, when he happened to catch a ride with me.  
We hit the proverbial jackpot, making a memory that will last a lifetime. We had the best time, he was tickled that I was tickled, his laughter louder and longer, after every fruit body I found, my excitement and squeals of joy, like that of a school girl, ducking and dodging the pursuer in a game of tag or dodge ball.  The moment was ethereal.  I appreciated the excursion, but didn't fully realize the full brevity of that fateful day, until just a couple of weeks ago...
The Oyster mushroom or Pleurotus Ostreatus above were stumbled upon in our backyard, growing conspicuously on a piece of cut log, too knotted for our wood splitter to accommodate.  I was out and about, piddling with this and that, getting in a bit of exercise, when I spotted them.  I immediately hurried to get my camera, to log and capture the specimen in the natural light of the sunny day, hoping they were, in fact, what I perceived them to be.  I was probably about 20 feet away when I first spotted them.  I walked down to the stump, leary and questioning if this could really be happening.  I was a bit skeptical, because I had been 'pseudo certain' about another specimen, which turned out to be the 'cousin' of the desired Turkey Tail Fungus or Tramedes Versicolor Polyporales.  
After due diligence double checking my information and following ID procedures/characteristics, I triple checked with my mushroom group with a description and photo check, I felt victorious!  The best part is that there were 5 more clusters, in different stages, growing on another stump juxtaposed to the first stump!  Initially, I left it to chance, growing where it was, but with the weather dipping down into the super low digits, I thought it would be best to haul the stump inside, protecting it from various scenarios the Arctic chill, pets and people.  I read that a good cold snap is what gets Oyster Mushrooms going this time of year! Things are going swimmingly.  
This was my first experience with Oyster Mushrooms and I was elated to take on the task at hand.  I wanted to make the most of my bounty and create a recipe equivalent to my appreciation and excitement, also using ingredients I had on hand.  I used a packet of Knorr, featuring Farro.  This worked for me because I envisioned a risotto of the Farro, being par cooked helped with the time allocation for the project and was an excellent chance to try my hand at a risotto, of which I was not as experienced, certainly not with Farro standing in for Arborio or risotto rice.
I love using my cold smoker and felt the mushrooms could benefit from a kiss of Cherrywood, subtle and sweet nuances, yet smoky and fruit forward.  I smoked them for about 5 minutes, as the mushrooms were eager to soak in its surrounding aromas and flavors.
Afterwards, I simply sauteed them in a small pat of butter and some extra virgin with fresh garlic.  I wanted to keep the flavors clean and complement the Farro.  
I used some black garlic grated into the risotto and some Parmigiano Reggiano, a splash of cream, helped to marry the flavors very well.  
The dish overall proved delightful and the tasters agreed, this one is a keeper!  



This entry is dedicated in memory of my cousin and 'Morel Support' buddy, Bradley Spencer Smith, 10/20/1983-12/08/2020. We had the best time ever gathering Morels, I'll never forget that day and I'm glad I was able to share it with you.


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