Last weekend at the Stillwater Farmers’ Market, I picked up a couple varieties of mushrooms I hadn’t had before, lobster and chicken of the woods. A local forager harvested them from area forests and sold them at his stand, along with chanterelles. Joking around, I asked if he had lots of experience and knew what he was doing so we wouldn’t be poisoned. He laughed and said when people ask, he usually points to the lobster mushrooms and tells them that’s what they should buy if they want to off their husbands. Okay, that didn’t really make me feel any better.
The amusing mushroom man explained that the lobster mushrooms had a seafood-like flavor and the chicken of the woods variety, covered with barbeque sauce and grilled, would taste just like chicken. Interesting. They were expensive too, about $20/pound, but I figured that was a lot cheaper than lobster.
Not really sure how to prepare my new-found treasures, I decided to just do a simple pasta dish with the lobster mushrooms. There were lots of lobster pasta recipes out there, so why not just sub lobster mushrooms? You can’t go wrong with shallots, garlic, butter and thyme, right? And white wine, half & half, and parmesan aren’t likely to mess up a dish either. It all came together wonderfully, with the promised seafood flavor a happy surprise.
If you happen upon these somewhat freaky-looking, neon reddish-orange beauties, either while foraging or at your local farmers’ market, try this recipe; I think you’ll really like it. Enjoy!
Lobster Mushroom Pasta
1 medium shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces lobster mushrooms, cleaned and cut into ½ inch chunks
1 teaspoon minced thyme leaves
A couple splashes dry white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
A handful of baby greens (I used a bagged mixture of baby power greens from Trader Joe’s)
½ cup freshly grated parmesan or parmigiano reggiano
¼ cup half & half, cream, or whole milk
8 ounces whole wheat spaghetti, linguini or any long, thin pasta
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, generously salt the water, then cook pasta according to package directions. When done, reserve about ½ cup of the pasta water and then drain pasta and return it to pot. Cover and keep warm.
While the pasta is cooking, in a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and add the shallots and garlic. Cook until the shallots have softened, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and thyme and cook until mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Add salt & pepper to taste. Increase heat to medium high and add the wine. Stir, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Cook until the wine has mostly cooked off.
Return heat on the pan to medium and add the second tablespoon of butter. Once it’s melted, add the greens. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the greens are wilted, but still bright green.
Add the mushroom mixture, cheese, and half & half to the warm pasta. Toss until combined. Add enough of the reserved pasta to make a sauce. Serve pasta in bowls. Makes 3-4 servings.