By Contributing Editor and Photographer, Holland Koehler
I have a love affair with mushrooms and would happily follow them around the world (and have been known to). I dream of Porcini in Italy, Truffles in France, Shiitake in Japan and any other member of the fungi family that I can locate anywhere between Greenport and Bordeaux. Out here on the North Fork, we are lucky enough to have a mushroom farm, East End Mushroom Co. where you can secure bouquets of shiitake, maitake and oyster mushrooms.
Mushrooms make wonderful meat-like croquettes, meatloaf or meatballs and their earthy flavor is enhanced by any allium or member of the onion family like spring onions in warmer months, or leeks later in the year. These croquettes are crispy on the outside and creamy and savory on the inside and are very versatile as appetizers, with a dip, for a holiday meal or with a salad or pasta. Make them for your family tonight, soon they will be a favorite for Meatless Monday.
Recipe adapted from Food & Wine
5 tablespoons of EVOO or unsalted butter
2 leeks or 6 scallions, white and tender green parts only, thinly sliced (or 4 shallots)
1/4 pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and caps thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon chopped thyme
1 teaspoon chopped oregano
3 tablespoons gluten-free flour, plus more for coating
1 cup milk
1/2 cup shredded Gruyère
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 large eggs beaten with 2 tablespoons of water
1 1/2 cups large grain polenta for gluten-free breading
Vegetable oil, for frying
In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the oil or butter. Add the scallions/leeks and shiitake, season with salt and pepper and cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until mushrooms and onions are softened and beginning to brown, about 7 minutes. Add the thyme and oregano to the vegetables and transfer to a medium bowl.
In a small saucepan, melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter/oil. Whisk in the 3 tablespoons of flour and cook over high heat until bubbling, about 1 minute. Add the milk and cook, whisking, until very thick and bubbling, about 3 minutes. Scrape the mixture into the bowl. Add the Gruyère and Parmigiano-Reggiano, season with salt and pepper and stir until the mixture is evenly combined.
Lay an 18-inch-long piece of plastic wrap on a work surface. Spoon the croquette mixture onto the plastic in a 12-inch strip. Roll up the plastic, pressing the croquette mixture into a 14-inch log, and twist the ends. Freeze the croquette log until very firm, about 2 hours.
Fill 3 shallow bowls with flour, the beaten eggs and the polenta and line a large baking sheet with wax paper. Unwrap the log and cut the croquette mixture into 12 pieces. Using floured hands, pat each piece into a 2-inch round patty, about 3/4 inch thick. Dip each patty in the flour, then dip in the eggs and coat with polenta, pressing to help it adhere. Set the croquettes on the baking sheet and freeze for 15 minutes.
In a large skillet, heat 1/2 inch of oil to 375°. Add all of the croquettes and fry over high heat, turning once or twice, until they are golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve hot.
Tip: These freeze well and may be heated in the oven for future use.