This year I was lucky enough to befriend someone with the scoop on local lobster mushrooms. They're near Mt. Rainier and the Hood Canal... It's a tough choice, but I think lobster mushrooms might be my favorite mushrooms ever. The mushroom part of it belongs to the genus Russula that is known for it's unique cellular structure that makes it's raw flesh "break like chalk". I think it's precisely this cellular structure that gives lobster mushrooms the perfect texture, the perfect "al dente" crunch that almost seems impossible with something so tender. It's the parasitic fungus that attacks the Russula to give it a lobstery complexion, not to mention a sweetly fishy flavor. Here's what it looks like in the wild:
Lobster mushrooms are utterly fabulous breaded and fried, but I decided to do something different this time. A professor of mine mentioned his favorite way to have lobster mushrooms was in etouffee - a classic Cajun dish, so I took that idea and ran with it. Etouffee came from the French method of slowly cooking vegetables and meat in a small amount of liquid inside of a closed vessel (pot with a lid). I essentially did just that with onions, garlic, corn , peppers, oyster mushrooms, and lobster mushrooms. By slow cooking with a small amount of liquid (veggie stock), everything was essentially slowly steamed, so the structural/flavor/color integrity of everything remained.