Meet Kristy – friend, caterer for our Weekend Workshops @ The Factory, and the newest contributor to this blog. I love the symbiotic relationship between the ferns and the mushrooms – along with Kristy’s recipe. Enjoy!
On a visit to the Florence/Lauderdale County Farmers’ Market last fall, I was taken by the beautiful shiitake mushrooms offered by one of the vendors. ”These are grown locally? Wow!“ was my initial thought, and that was before I tasted them. The mushrooms were not only beautiful, but deliciously earthy and some of the tastiest I’ve ever tried.
This past week, I finally made the trip to Shamrock Farms in Waterloo, Alabama, to see just how these mushrooms are grown. I was given the tour by Mrs. Kelley who lives onsite and was gracious enough to interrupt her afternoon routine, guiding me greenhouse-to-greenhouse on a drizzly February day.
The mushroom greenhouse once supported only ferns, Mrs. Kelley explained. Then, a young, passionate farmer began to experiment with growing shiitakes by adding rows of thin oak logs beneath the ferns and inoculating them with the shiitake spawn.
While this practice is fairly common among mushroom farmers, Mrs. Kelly says it is the ferns that really make their mushrooms thrive. I’ve seen (and tasted) Shamrock Farms’ mushrooms the size of my hand—equally as tender and tasty as their smaller counterparts—but Mrs. Kelley says they’ve grown shiitakes as large as pizzas. Imagine a pizza in which the mushrooms act as a crust topped with goat cheese, mozzarella, fresh basil, and pine nuts, baked and drizzled with a reduction of quality balsamic vinegar.
With my mushroom procurements of the day, I took a more straightforward approach back home in the kitchen. I simply diced the shiitakes into thirds, tossed them with a little olive oil, and roasted them at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. I was sure not to overcook them so that they maintained all of their wonderful woodsy flavors. Sprinkle them with some white pepper when they’re fresh out of the oven and serve alongside a cast iron-seared beef strip from Cox Butcher (just down the road from Shamrock Farms). I also incorporated the roasted mushrooms with my favorite winter veggie, Brussels sprouts, and a parmesan-Madeira cream sauce. Here’s the recipe:
ROASTED SHIITAKES AND BRUSSELS SPROUTS IN PARMESAN-MADEIRA CREAM SAUCE
For the Brussels sprouts:
12 ping-pong ball-sized Brussels sprouts, rinsed and loose leaves removed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves crushed garlic
Bring a large pot of water with a pinch of salt to a boil. Prepare an ice water bath. Boil the sprouts for 3 minutes, then blanch in the ice water bath until cool. Remove from water bath, trim stems, and cut in half lengthwise. Warm the butter and olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-low heat. Add the crushed garlic and stir until garlic begins to brown; remove garlic. Place the sprouts cut side down in the garlic butter. Cover and cook over low heat for 12-15 minutes, until they begin to just caramelize. Strain off the excess butter and oil, then toss the sprouts with 1 1/2 cups of the roasted mushrooms.
For the sauce:
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 yellow onion, diced
1 1/2 tablespoons Madeira (the woodsy flavor of Madeira really compliments the mushrooms, but you could substitute sherry for a similar effect)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Heat the butter in a pot over medium-low heat. Cook the onions until translucent. Add the 2 tablespoons of Madeira. Whisk in the cream, parmesan, nutmeg, and pepper. Simmer for 3-4 minutes, whisking constantly.
Drizzle the cream sauce over the mushrooms + sprouts and serve!