I love the big oyster or similar mushrooms (sold as 'setas' in Spain) but I'm never quite sure what to do with them, other than grilling or frying them with garlic. Recently, however, as part of our family's River Cottage addiction, I saw Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall breading and frying some wild mushrooms, and thought I would give it a try. The result was great - there was a really good contrast between the juicy mushroom and the crispy coating, and none of the bitterness you sometimes get with mushrooms - all of which just confirms the value of the motto: "when in doubt, fry it".
Dragon balls and lion's heads
I also like the fact that these look exactly like the pollo empanado or breaded chicken fillets, so beloved by Spaniards. And so, in the best spirit of Chinese restaurant menus everywhere, I have dubbed them fried forest oysters. (Thanks to Madalen for helping me working out what they were - see comments below. I am a complete mushroom ignoramus, so anything beyond a button mushroom has me stumped!)
0.25 kg oyster mushrooms
plenty of dried breadcrumbs
olive oil for frying
Wipe the mushrooms clean, remove any woody bits of stalk and trim the ends if the mushrooms are not in tip-top condition, then cut each mushroom lengthewise into 2 or 3 wide strips. Dip the mushrooms in egg, then breadrcrumbs and fry in plenty of olive oil until golden and crispy on both sides. Remove to a plate, sprinkle with plenty of salt, and serve.
The oyster mushrooms are light and soak up a lot of egg (in their gills) and breadcrumbs, so 1/4 kg goes quite a long way and would be a reasonable main course for two hungry adults or a starter for four.
A taste of Serbia
I sometimes have a quick google to see if something I have come up with is already out there. I've been gratified so far to find that my rabbit dhansak and snail pakora are unique creations, but it's also nice when the opposite happens. Apparently breaded oyster mushrooms are popular in Serbia, where they go by the name of Pohovane bukovače. Not a lot of people know that!