Wonderful Seasonal Food: Oyster Mushrooms

And an autumn recipe from Tarrytown’s Cooper’s Mill

For me, come October, food and feet are inextricably linked. No more pestos, no more pedicures. No more salsas, no more slides. One stashed in back of the recipe box, the other in back of the closet. On to ragus and lace-ups, braises and boots. 

And those shoes will point me right to the greenmarket’s mushrooms, then carry me back laden with  pewter-capped, short-stemmed oysters. Growing in shelf-like clusters resembling their oceanic namesake, oyster mushrooms sprout from dead trees and logs in the damp of autumn rains. Delicate and tender, unlike the meatier, sturdy shiitake, oyster mushrooms are best cooked quickly in stir-fries and sautés, or sliced raw into salads.

Chef Iain Falconer does all of this daily in the kitchen of Tarrytown’s new Cooper’s Mill (670 White Plains Rd 914-333-1216; coopersmillrestaurant.com) His wild—never cultivated—oysters find their way into tartlets with fontina, leeks, and thyme; onto flatbreads atop pistachio cream with sunchokes and Parmesan; and in a risotto accompanying roasted game birds. “Oysters have a delicate, peppery flavor that stands on its own,” he says. “They don’t need to be combined with other mushrooms. And they cook quickly: 30 seconds in a sauté pan and they stay fresh and still have a bite to them.” That bite amps up a salad as well, the oysters sliced raw with roasted chestnuts and arugula and dressed with lemon. 

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Sounds just my speed. I’ll be strolling into his dining room soon, courtesy of my peep-toe platform booties.

Oyster Mushroom and Leek Tartlets
Courtesy of Iain Falconer, Cooper’s Mill
Serves 6

3 Tbsp canola oil                                                                                                                                             
1 medium shallot, small dice                                                                                                                                            
3 cloves garlic, minced                                                                                                                                          
1 leek, shredded                                                                                                                                        
1 lb oyster mushrooms, preferably wild 

1 Tbsp lemon thyme leaves
4 oz fontina cheese, shredded
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste                                                                                                                            
6 pre-baked 4-inch tart shells

Preheat oven to 325°F.  In a medium sauté pan over medium flame, heat oil until shimmering. Add shallot and garlic and sauté 2 minutes. Add shredded leek and continue to sauté about 5 minutes, until leek is tender but not browned. Add mushrooms and continue to sauté about 4 minutes, until mushrooms are golden brown. Remove mixture and place on parchment-lined tray to cool, about 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine mushroom mixture with thyme and cheese and gently fold together. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide mixture evenly among the tart shells. Bake for 8 minutes to heat through and melt the cheese.

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