Recipe: Tagliolini with Oyster Mushrooms, Prosciutto Cotto, and Sage
I recently went hunting for oyster mushrooms in Dutchess County, New York, with my friend Toby. He finds them almost every year, growing shelf-like from half dead trees in the woods around his house. This year he had so many that after trying to peddle them off to a local restaurant (they were swamped, too), he asked me for a few recipes. I suggested making a simple bruschetta, just sautéing them in a bit of garlic, olive oil, thyme, and brandy, and then putting them on toast, which he did and served at a family dinner. His 93-year-old mother had the violent pukes for three days afterward. She has recovered, but I felt kind of guilty, although I’m sure it was the mushrooms, not my innocuous recipe.
The things do look a bit iffy. Sometimes they’re white or cream-colored, which seems pretty tame, but more often they’re a very light peach, which is what we found this year. Occasionally Toby has found bright butter yellow ones, looking like butterflies that have mated with a dreadful fungus. They look the most menacing, but they are delicious and quite harmless, I guess, unless you’re really old. You can get wild ones from mushroom sellers at farmers’ markets now, or buy cultivated oysters in supermarkets. Just make sure any you wind up with aren’t waterlogged. Those don’t sauté up well and can have a lightly mildewy odor. For that reason I try to avoid supermarket oysters that are packaged in plastic. I always buy loose ones.
As nice and sickening as that bruschetta was, here’s a recipe for something more involved, although by no means complicated. For this pasta you’ll want to purchase good prosciutto cotto di Parma , the cooked form of air-cured prosciutto, something I wouldn’t use in a cooked pasta sauce, since it’s delicate and when heated loses most of its charms, both in taste and in texture.
Tagliolini with Oyster Mushrooms, Prosciutto Cotto, and Sage
(Serves 2 as a main course)
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium shallots, cut into small dice
½ pound tagliolini or spaghetti
¼ pound oyster mushrooms, roughly sliced, the thick stems cut away
A few big scrapings of fresh nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
A splash of dry vermouth
¼ cup homemade chicken broth
4 or 5 slices proscuitto cotto, cut into thin strips
1 heaping tablespoon crème fraiche
About 6 sage leaves, cut into thin strips
A handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves, lightly chopped
A chunk of grana Padano cheese
Set up a pot of pasta cooking water, and bring it to a boil.
Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil with the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots, and let them soften, about 2 minutes.
Add a generous amount of salt to the pasta water, and when it comes back to a boil drop in the tagliolini or spaghetti.
Add the oyster mushrooms to the skillet, and sauté until they’ve softened, about 3 minutes or so. Season with the nutmeg, a bit of salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Add the vermouth, and let it bubble away. Add the chicken broth and the prosciutto cotto, and warm through. Turn off the heat.
When the pasta is al dente, drain it and pour it into a warmed serving bowl.
Add the crème fraiche to the mushroom sauce, and stir it in. Pour the sauce over the pasta. Add the sage and parsley, and grate in about a tablespoon of grana Padano. Toss gently, adding a bit more salt or black pepper if needed. Serve right away, with extra grana Padano if you like.