Here at Shortsinwoods, we harvested a huge crop of Shaggy Parasols (Chlorophylum rhacodes) this Fall. These mushrooms dehydrate very easily, and after doing this we found ourselves with about a half dozen gallon-size bags full!
These beautiful mushrooms began growing (wild) in our gravel driveway a few years ago, then took up residence in a decaying pile of Bigleaf Maple leaves which I had been using as a repository for the huge Bigleaf Maple tree in our back yard when it dumped its leaves each fall. The caps have a lovely feathery appearance and can be 7" or more in diameter. They start out egg-shaped then break away from the stipe, leaving a pretty ring, before they begin to flatten out into their characteristic parasol shape. This mushroom culture has spread like crazy throughout the maple leaves and is now making its way out elsewhere into the forest surrounding our home on the foothills of Mt. Rainier (lovingly dubbed "Shortsinwoods").
Pests also love Shaggies, but the only real problem we had was with small slugs which would crawl up the stipe and eat their way into a pocket among the gills. But these were easily enough brushed out, and no other cleaning was really necessary.
As I began to study Shaggy Parasols a few years ago, I discovered that they are one of America's most beloved edible mushrooms, but also are a leading cause of poisonings in this country when people mistakenly harvest a close look-alike by accident (Chlorophylum molybdites, which causes severe intestinal distress when consumed).
I didn't want to spend any time at all clinging to a toilet (I love mushrooms, but not THAT much) so I tested mine thoroughly to be 100% certain they were the edible variety, and not C. molybdites, or some other even more dangerous species. (We did have some deadly Amanitas making their way into the culture as well, but they are easy to spot and remove.) The principle means of discerning between C. rhacodes (or its companion edibles C. olivieri and C. brunneum) and C. molybdites is by conducting a spore test: Parasols which drop greenish-tinged spores are the bad variety, and true Shaggy Parasols drop whitish spores. (To conduct a spore test, harvest a cap and leave it gill side down on a sheet of black paper, or a piece of glass positioned atop a black background, for a full 24 hours. Then remove the cap and carefully examine the spore print.)
Fortunately, mine are the good kind. (And there are actually very few of the bad kind here in Washington State, increasing my comfort margin considerably. But I tested nonetheless, and also followed the standard shroomers' protocol of starting with very small quantities and working my way up to the full meal deal.)
Our culture has now grown so large, and we have harvested so many beautiful mushrooms, that we are doing two things: 1) Testing whether we can export portions of the culture to other parts of the country and have folks who are willing to test our hypothesis develop their own Shaggy Parasol colonies in decaying Bigleaf Maple leaf beds. After next Fall, we should be able to report back whether or not this effort has been successful. If you are interested in being a part of this test, please contact us and we will provide instructions.
And 2) We are testing out various recipes utilizing Shaggy Parasol mushrooms, so we can report back here on what we have found.
Three of the most promising recipes I have found, thus far, are on a page on one of my favorite mycological websites, that of the Mycological Society of San Francisco. Here is a link to their page full of Shaggy Parasol recipes. We will be testing each one of them!
This week, the second one on the page sounded intriguing, so we tried it. They call it, "Beef and Red Wine in a Clay Pot." The title of the recipe mentions nothing about its primary ingredient, Shaggy Parasols, so I am retitling this wonderful recipe:
Clay Pot Beef with Shaggy Parasols and Red Wine
I actually don't own a clay pot (the cooking variety), though they sound quite wonderful, so I am planning on obtaining one as soon as I can find a good one. But instead, I used what is probably the next best thing, a nice ceramic Dutch Oven.
I depleted one of my gallon bags of Shaggy Parasol caps, dehydrated just about four months ago. A year or two of sitting in a dehydrated state is said to be preferred, but from my perspective the flavor was still wonderful.
I had dehydrated whole caps (not strips), so before adding into the Dutch Oven I simply broke each cap into bite-sized sections.
I found I needed a little more flour and salt than the recipe called for, in order to fully prepare two pounds of cubed beef, so I about doubled those portions.
The recipe doesn't specify what kind of oil to use to fry the floured beef cubes in, so I used my favorite, olive oil, which seemed to work well.
Also, I didn't have small boiling onions, so I just cut up a large yellow onion into sections instead, and also added some dried diced onions. Next time I'll use two white onions instead, cut into sections.
I also had a sense that (in the Dutch oven, which because of the cast iron I'm sure cooks hotter than a water-saturated clay pot) I could shorten the cooking time, so I shortened it to a little more than an hour. Despite this change, the mushrooms were still tender and the flavor wonderful. No problem at all.
One other thing I did, mostly because I just thought it sounded good: I added a few strands of saffron to the mix of spices (otherwise predominantly garlic, black pepper and marjoram). I love the flavor of saffron, but the recipe probably wouldn't be significantly different without it.
The finished product is very dark and dense, almost brown-black, as you can see in the photo. Instead of serving over wide egg noodles, as they recommended, I made my favorite fresh mashed potato recipe and used that as a side instead. I also served a side of vegetables as you can see in the photo: My own recipe in which Chinese Pea Pods (de-strung) are sauteed with Enoki mushrooms and almonds in Sesame Oil and Yoshida sauce. Quite tasty.
For red wine, I used the Cabernet Sauvignon produced by Kirkland. It is mellow and smooth and a great bargain for the price (about $8 for a large bottle). Two cups for the recipe don't make much of a dent in the bottle, so there was plenty left over to drink with the meal!
I must say, my wife and I both loved the "Clay Pot Beef With Shaggy Parasols and Red Wine" and will make it again, for sure. The Parasol flavor is intense and the beef tender and tasty. This is a generous recipe, plenty enough for six people. The two of us had twice as much left over as we ate for dinner last night. So we had it again for lunch today, and it was just as tasty left over!
I think you will really enjoy this recipe. I am reproducing it below, as it was originally posted, but make note of the changes I suggested above. Many thanks to the MSSF and Louise Freedman for posting this.
Serves 6 as a main course ...
The shaggy parasol is a strongly flavored mushroom that will stand up to long cooking. Soaking dried mushrooms is unnecessary for this dish, for the long slow cooking time makes them succulent. Serve over buttered noodles, with a salad and a green vegetable.
Soak a clay pot in water for 15 minutes.
In a mixing bowl, mix the salt and flour together. Roll the meat in the flour. Heat the oil in a sauté pan or skillet and sauté the meat until it is browned. Transfer the meat to the clay pot and add the garlic, onions, mushrooms, bay leaf, marjoram, and peppercorns. Pour the wine over these ingredients.
Place in a cold oven set to 400º and cook for 2 hours. Remove the bay leaf before serving. Add the pepper just before serving.
ALTERNATE MUSHROOMS: Black Saddle Mushroom, Hedgehog Mushroom
Next up we're going to try the first recipe on the MSSF page, "Shaggy Parasols With Noodles." We'll let you know what we think of that one too!