Mystery Mushrooms

 "Can we meet up today? I have something I need to give to you right away." We met up with my mom for our occasional dinners last minute at no place other than OCB. Gotta love the buffets once in a while. It turned out my generous mom had a huge bag of mushrooms for us. Magic mushrooms, I joked. But she was very serious. "I know, they look scary but please don't throw them away. The street price on these is very expensive." And by "street" I think she meant the streets of farmer's markets around the world. I was beginning to think they might be "magical" afterall. "You have to eat them all, okay promise?" Okay, we will. I'm sure there was some hesitation in my voice with a question mark at the end of my answer to go along with my blank stare.

 We got these dusty things home and I didn't realize how hard they were to clean until I found myself scrubbing them forever it seemed under the cold running water. I got them prettified and looking good for meals to come. We were determined to eat these things because we'd feel guilty if we didn't after all her efforts and pleading.

I threw them in the new dutch oven to add to a rosemary lemon chicken dish the first night. They were pretty good, nothing like the typical mushroom I've had. It had a more chewy and meaty texture.

We ended up using these for dinner every night after that in efforts to eat through the entire bag. Yes, there were enough in there to last through four very large cooked meals. The next night we had a few friends over and I added them to our chicken enchilada verdes. They were actually really good in these.

I made some kalimotxos to go along with our enchiladas. I wanted our friend Ryan to try it since he seemed a little turned off when I first told him about this popular drink. I like watching people try something for the first time, especially when they think they won't like it. His reaction was the same as mine when I first found out about it along with many others. "You're putting what in what...what the?"

Kalimotxo (pronounced "cali-mocho") is equal parts red wine and cola served over ice and garnished with a twist of citrus like lime. I just learned that this drink is actually served around the world in places like Chile, Bosnia, Hungaria, and in Germany it is sometimes referred to as "Korea". Random fact, young spainards were commonly known to save money by mixing cheap red wine and coke in a plastic bag and squeezing the contents into a cola bottle. This drink is served all over Spain. The only place I've seen in Seattle so far that serves this on the menu is the now-extinct Txori (Spanish tapas) in Belltown, which had awesome tapas. His reaction, like mine was surprised satisfaction.

Continuing on the mushroom adventure, Sunday evening we sent the shrooms swimming in a pool of sesame oil and soy sauce then tossed them with our porkchops and ate them "Korean-syle" wrapping them in lettuce leaves with a bunch of side dishes called ban chan. On the final day, I sauteed them in garlic, onion, and oil and tossed them into rice for a Mexican casserole dish. For the rice I mixed sour cream, salsa, cilantro, cheese and pan fried chicken thighs seasoned fajita-style with some cumin.

 Jin commented that he liked them more and more each time he tried them. The funny part is, I think we actually enjoyed and appreciated them more once we found out the real story behind these mystery mushrooms. Around dinner number two, I received an email from my sister in San Francisco that she had received an anonymous care package full of nature's goodness in her mailbox one night. I couldn't even imagine my face if I got a box of these unknowingly in the mailbox considering how confused I was even receiving them in person from my own mother. The sight and smell of these frightened her and her mushroom-hating boyfriend and they worried it could be poisonous. She took them to the farmer's market the next morning and learned they are a delicacy going for (the street price) of $28 a pound! An elderly Japanese man asked where she got them and said they're really good in risotto. He said they're a huge delicacy in his country and grow near pine trees. She felt safe enough to cook them in her small apartment that evening but had a difficult time getting the smell out. Ah, the sweet aftermath of expensive fungus. Her boyfriend has been a great sport about it as he hates mushrooms, a trait I've learned about quite a few people actually. Usually due to the ooey-gooey texture. Needless to say, my mother vowed never to send her mushrooms again. Luckily Jin and I both love mushrooms so we were able to eat through the whole bag within a matter of days.

These mystery fun-guys turned out to be called matsutake mushrooms. Here's a background on these if you're interested: http://www.mssf.org/cookbook/matsutake.html

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