This section is from the book "Our Edible Toadstools and Mushrooms and How to Distinguish Them", by W. Hamilton Gibson. Also available from Amazon: Our Edible Toadstools And Mushrooms And How To Distinguish Them.
The beautiful sulphur-colored Polyporus described in my previous pages when stewed closely suggests the tender white meat of chicken or veal, and might lend itself to various deceptive dishes, as, for instance, soups, croquettes, fricassees, or patties.
Only the tender young plant should be employed, and a little experience will suggest various appetizing methods of treatment.
The following is an old-time recipe of Persoon: "Pick and clean your fungi and cut them in two; wash and dry them well by wiping; then put them in a stewpan with butter, or a piece of ham or bacon; place them over a brisk fire, and when the butter is melted squeeze in a little lemon-juice, give a few turns, and then add salt, pepper, and a little grated nutmeg; cook slowly for an hour, pouring on at intervals small quantities of beef gravy or jelly broth to prevent burning; when done, thicken with yolks of eggs." The lemon-juice is omitted by many, who consider it a positively unpalatable as well as unwholesome ingredient.
Dr. Badham's work contains the following recipes from Persoon, which, from the peculiar construction of the fungus, affords a contrast to ordinary methods: "Choose the freshest and whitest Morels; open the stalk at the bottom; wash and wipe them well; fill with veal stuffing, anchovy, or any rich farce you choose, securing the ends and dressing between slices of bacon. Serve with a sauce."
Here is another skilful compound from the same source: "Having washed and dried the mushrooms, divide them across; put them on the fire with some parsley, scallion, chervil, burnet, tarragon, cives, a little salt, and two spoonfuls of fine oil; stew until the juice runs out, then thicken with a little flour. Serve with bread-crumbs and a squeeze of lemon."
Badham gives the following recipe for the Clavaria, or coral fungus: "After sousing in tepid water and wiping perfectly clean, the fungus should be ' sweated ' over a slow fire, afterwards to be strained and the liquor thrown away; stew for an hour; add salt, pepper, cloves, and parsley to taste, masking with plain stock and dredging occasionally with flour. Thicken with yolks of eggs and cream."
The simple process of browning in butter or oil in the frying-pan, with the addition of pepper and salt, and serving hot on buttered toast or with fried eggs, will be found a most palatable method of treating this fungus. For those who are willing to sacrifice the characteristic fangus flavor to a savor more pronounced, the Clavaria is also said to be delicious when fried with onions or with curry in the usual method.
As already described, the Puff-balls in their white-pulp condition are esculent and afford a delicate relish. The species Giganteus sometimes attains a diameter of nearly two feet, and where such a specimen or even much smaller ones are situated at an easily available distance, we may profit by the hint of Vitadini, the Italian mycologist: "Cut off a slice at a time, cutting it horizontally, and using great care not to disturb its growth, to prevent decay, and thus one may have a fritter every day for a week." Dr. Curtis calls this species the "Southdown of mushrooms." His opinion of its merits as food will be shared by others who give it a trial: "It has a delicacy of flavor that makes it superior to any omelette I have ever eaten. It seems, furthermore, to be so digestible as to adapt itself to the most delicate stomach." Mrs. Hussey, the pioneer English authority, recommends the following recipe: "First remove the outer skin; cut in slices half an inch thick; have ready some chopped herbs, pepper, and salt; clip the slices in the yolk of egg, and sprinkle the herbs upon them; fry in fresh butter and eat immediately."
The extreme tenderness and delicacy of the Puff-ball thus cooked resembles a souffle, and suggests many possibilities of appetizing variations and combinations, as, for example, with jelly, in the form of an entremet or dessert. By many the flavor of the Puff-ball has been compared to "sweetbread," and doubtless so cooked and served would afford an agreeable variation in the menu. Indeed, it may be prepared in a variety of ways, as suggested for other species, but from its peculiar consistency is particularly adapted to frying in the pan. With chopped ham or thinly sliced smoked beef it might furnish a good substitute for the ham-omelette or frizzled beef. Another addition to our entremets might be availed of in the "jelly mushroom," Hydnum, or Tremelodon gelatinosum, which is not described in this volume. It is eaten raw, either plain or with milk and sugar, and is said to be of most delicate flavor.