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Bob Banfelder

Bob is an award-winning crime-thriller novelist and outdoors writer. "The Fishing Smart Anywhere Handbook for Salt Water & Fresh Water" is endorsed by Lefty Kreh and Angelo Peluso~online at Amazon.

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April 01, 2014

North Fork's Fleshy Fungi for Seafaring Foodies

by Bob Banfelder

The Long Island Mushroom Company, Inc. of Cutchogue, abbreviated LIM, is owned and operated by John Quigley and Jane Maguire. They will soon be open to the public; however, you may purchase their gems on Saturdays from 11a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Riverhead Farmers' Market, located at 117 East Main Street in downtown Riverhead. After being open for only a month, the market had become so popular that there is talk of expanding and extending the operation past a projected May 17th date to year-round.



There are three types of mushrooms sold at the market: blue oyster, shiitake, and maitake.

Unlike the blue oyster and shiitake mushrooms, maitake mushrooms have no gills; therefore, they may be frozen whereas the shiitake and blue oyster mushrooms cannot. All three types can be kept seven (7) to ten (10) days on a center shelf, uncovered, in the refrigerator. They are packaged by the half pound in slit-wooden cartons for good air circulation; hence, do not place them against a wall of the refrigerator.

As the mushrooms are grown fresh and handled by the company in a controlled environment, they need not nor should they be washed. Everything has been done for you. Simply remove the cellophane wrapping from the top of the carton when you get home, refrigerate as explained above, and you are ready to prepare sumptuous fare—I'm talking gourmet quality. In a moment we'll look at a gourmet mushroom/seafood soup recipe I created that will wow your guests, but first a modicum of information referencing these marvelous mushrooms. It will help us to appreciate the efforts involved in cultivating this trio as well as justify cost, which, ostensibly, may seem pricey.

blue oyster mushrooms take five (5) to seven (7) days to grow. [$10 per ½ pound.]

shiitake mushrooms take seven (7) to ten (10) days to grow. [$10 per ½ pound.]

maitake mushrooms (also called hen of the woods, sheep's head, and ram's head) take seven (7) weeks to grow! Consequently, they command a higher price. [$15 per ½ pound.] In Japan they are referred to as the king of all mushrooms. Maitake literally means Dancing Mushroom, so named because locals who would find them growing in clusters at the base of trees would Dance for Joy. They are our favorite, not only for taste but because, as mentioned, you can freeze and use them as needed. Donna and I freeze them in individual snack-sized 6-5/8 inch x 3-¾ inch Double-Lock Glad Zipper Bag quantities to be used later in soups, salads, gravies, casseroles and stews. No need to vacuum seal and freeze them in our household because they fly out of the freezer in no-time flat.

The shiitake and blue oyster mushrooms may be dehydrated (dried) then rehydrated as needed by simply adding warm water. If you have your wood-burning stove cranked up this time of year, cut the mushrooms into narrow one-inch strips and place them on a raised open rack set atop the stove, monitoring them until they are dry—not dried out. After a couple of evenings, you may put them in an open glass jar so as to dry for an additional day. Then seal the jar with a lid and store in a cool dry place.

Another method is to spread the cut strips of mushrooms on kitchen paper (paper towel) placed within a roasting tray, allowing them to dry in an oven set on low heat. Again, the key is monitoring these morsels so that they are dry. If they are not dry, they will rot when stored. If they are too dry, they will crumble.

If you are leery about experimenting with the above methods, then keep things simple by planning to use your refrigerated blue oyster and shiitake purchase within seven to ten days. Again, keep in mind that you can achieve longevity by buying fresh maitake mushrooms and freezing these cluster gems for later use. Whatever you decide, you will convert an ordinary meal into an extraordinary repast.

In John and Jane's Cutchogue facility (or is it Jane and John's :o)), maintaining constant room temperatures along with humidity controls are vital for a favorable bloom. One type of mushroom may require a lower temperature and greater humidity than another. Quality control is key to suitable production.

Ready for my gourmet mushroom/seafood soup recipe? Here goes:

You can cheat by starting with a lobster bisque base put out by Legal Sea Foods, sold at BJ's. It is the best that I've tasted of the ‘already prepared lot' and is always available in the store's refrigerated section (dated with a "Use Or Freeze By" date approximately one month out). The bisque comes in two 20 oz. 2-packs. I usually prepare one container immediately and freeze the other. One container will net four servings after I doctor up the bisque.

Bobby B's Deceitfully Delicious Lobster Bisque
Serves Four


Ingredients:

(1) 20 oz. container of lobster bisque
12 top-neck clams
12 jumbo shrimp
1 cup diced maitake mushrooms
1 cup chicken broth
¾ cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon cream sherry ~ [deluxe quality] Savory & James
1 tablespoon butter
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
dash of ground gourmet-style peppercorns (black, green, white, pink) adds a nice touch
4 teaspoons chopped parsley
4 heaping tablespoons sour cream at room temperature

Procedure:

Shuck the clams as you generally would. However, for an added super presentation and ease in eating, I like to cook the clams so that each is wholly hinged by a single muscle. This way, they do not get lost in the broth when both cooking and serving. You can either follow this simple and appealing presentation or pass on it, handling the clams as you normally would. Your choice.

The flesh of each clam is attached by four adductor muscles; two on each side of its shell at the four corners. We'll shuck them so that only one of the four muscles holds the whole of the clam in half of its shell. If you're right handed, this is easily accomplished by holding the clam upright in your left hand with the narrower dimpled side facing downward and within the palm of that hand. You will note that there is a somewhat wider gap on the dimpled top side of the shell, making it easier to open. Open the clam by running the blade straight down from top to bottom. Disconnect two adductor muscles from the back half of the shell by cutting through them with the blade of the clam knife flat against the two corners of that shell, gently allowing the flesh to fall forward and lay into the front half of the shell. Discard the now empty back half of the shell, which will facilitate cutting one of the two adductor muscles from either side of the remaining front half of the shell. If you did this correctly, the whole clam is hinged together and held but by a single adductor muscle. This will stay together nicely, and your guests will see what they are getting.

Peel the shrimp down to the tail section. Bend and break back that sharp, pointed appendage at the base of the tail (telson). Gently pull upon the fantail-shaped flipper (uropods). This will facilitate in removing the remaining shell without breaking off the tail. It makes for a more pleasing presentation, especially in dishes where the whole section is being utilized. Here, however, we will be carefully slicing the shrimp lengthwise and removing the two so-called veins: one on top (its digestive track); one on the bottom (its nerve cord). Use a small, sharp paring or fillet knife. I love my Marttiini 4-inch fillet blade from Finland. Extremely sharp, so be careful. Wash the shrimp in cold water and set aside.

In an 8-quart pot, heat the bisque at a low temperature. [In just a moment, you'll understand why we're using such an oversized pot.]

Add the mushrooms, chicken broth, wine, sherry, butter, cayenne, ground pepper, and parsley. Stir well until the butter has melted.

Raise the heat source to medium. Do not allow the bisque to bubble. Stir constantly.

When hot, carefully place your clams into the liquid, stacking them in two layers. Keep spooning on the bisque broth until the clams are nearly cooked—not overcooked. Approximately three (3) minutes.

Add the shrimp and continue cooking for approximately one (1) minute more. They will have a slight twist to them. Shut the heat source.

Divide and evenly spread the sour cream into the bottom of the four soup bowls.
Upon the base of sour cream, carefully spoon out the clams with the attached shells. Three (3) per person.

Spoon out and add the shrimp. Six (6) halves per person. Better count evenly and meticulously as our guests squawk if they feel that the person sitting to either side of them has more shrimp or clam.

Ladle out the bisque into each bowl and serve immediately.

Accept all appreciative but garbled comments most graciously as your guests greedily spoon-feed their faces. :o)

[Next time, experiment with all three types of mushrooms for a special treat. I didn't want you to spoil your guests this first time around. Trust me in that you'll be doubling and tripling the recipe once word gets out.]

Bon Appétit.

A final word about the mushroom mavens, John and Jane: The two were once childhood sweethearts who rediscovered one another then reunited after thirty-two years.

Robert Banfelder
Award-Winning Thriller Novelist, Outdoors Writer & Creator of a Unique Writing Course Guide
Senior Editor, Broadwater Books
Cablevision TV Show Host, Special Interests with Bob & Donna
[www.robertbanfelder.com]




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