One of our vendors, Mycopia Mushrooms, gave me a couple of pounds of Lion’s Mane mushrooms this week to play around with (I know I shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition, but are we really formal enough here for me to write “pounds of Lion’s Mane with which to experiment?”)
Lion’s Mane mushrooms grow on hardwoods and have been popular in Asia for ages. Their official name is Hericium erinaceus, but they are also known as monkey head mushrooms, pom pom mushrooms or (my favorite) Satyr’s beard. They are used medicinally in China, and studies are underway looking into its effects on blood sugar regulation, myelin regeneration, and dementia among other things.
I started poking around the internet for recipes and quickly discovered that a lot of chefs use these lovely darlings as a seafood substitute. Not only do you taste a hint of seafood when you taste them, but they “pull” like pulled crab or chicken. I found this recipe at Forager Chef and used it as my starting point
I put my hair in a pony, warned the DH that I would be taking over the kitchen for the afternoon, and set out to see if I could really make crab cakes out of mushrooms.
First, you are supposed to sweat the mushrooms. I made the mistake of making this way more complicated than it needed to be. I obsessed about cutting them into equal sized parts, spaced them in the pan, then sautéed them in batches. I cooked them at too high a heat and they browned. Now…the recipe says not to brown them because they are supposed to be white, like crab cakes. I am a firm believer that people should know exactly what they are putting in their bodies (I’m looking at you FDA). So if you are making a crab cake out of mushrooms your guests should know that. Therefore, the browning doesn’t make a bit of difference. Not to mention, if I pull this off and make a mushroom crab cake, I’m yelling it from the rafters, not trying to slide it past my eaters.
Back to the recipe.
The second time I sweat them I chopped them up into cubes of whatever size, put them on the lowest setting my range could manage, and let them sit for a while. Like 30 minutes a while. I did stir them occasionally and checked to make sure moisture was being released. The mushrooms started to shrink, and when I pushed them with the back of the spatula great amounts of water were released. After they cooled I also wrapped them in a towel and SQUEEEEEEEEZED to get out as much liquid as possible. There is no other way to do that. It helps. A lot.
While the mushroom cooled I chopped all the other ingredients and slapped them into a bowl. I did double the amount of lemon zest and I edited the recipe to reflect that. Other than that the only change I made was to leave out the parsley. Many people would disagree with me, but I always think of parsley like the “k” in knife. It is the silent herb. It is in everything and I never have any on hand so I always leave it out. I never miss it. I left it in the recipe, but in or out, it’s totally up to you.
Oh, and I lied. I changed something else. I didn’t put the liquid back in and sauté the mushrooms again. Just the squeeze, a rough chop, and into the bowl of fixins it went.
It felt like crab cakes. It looked like crab cakes. They formed like crab cakes. If you feel compelled to use the shaper like the chef in the recipe you are more organized and fancier than I am. I just slapped them into patties and got ready to cook.
And then they were crab cakes. Look how pretty!!
They tasted like crab cakes, even before I slathered them in Remoulade sauce. They were delicious! I served them to a group of friends at a BBQ and they all agreed that they couldn’t believe that there was no crab in their crab cakes.
So if you can get your hands on some Lion’s Mane, which are now available on FarmLink, grab some and start experimenting. You won’t be disappointed!
Lion's Mane Crab Cakes
1. Chop the Lion’s Mane into even-ish sized pieces. Don’t go cross-eyed. You can’t do this wrong. Check for dirt. You can dip them into a bowl of cold water if they are dirty and swish them around a bit. You can also trim dirty spots if you would prefer.
2. After the mushrooms are cleaned, place them in a large, high sided pan and sweat them on low heat in the two tablespoons of butter and a good pinch of salt, covering the pan with a lid to help them along. Water will come out of the mushrooms while they cook, especially if you had to wash them. When the mushrooms are completely cooked through and wilted, transfer them to a bowl and allow to cool until you can handle them. Squeeze the mushrooms to release excess water. Squeeze them hard. Don’t be gentile. The drier the mushrooms the better your cakes will hold together.
3. Chop the mushrooms medium-fine then transfer to a mixing bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Work the ingredients together. You don’t want to go too crazy. Get everything evenly distributed and then stop.
4. Make a little test patty the size of a quarter. Fry it up in a little butter. Look for whether or not it holds together, and if you think you need to adjust the seasonings. This is the time to add salt or lemon or pepper if you think it needs it.
5. Fry the cakes in oil or butter on both sides until golden and eat hot.