Cauliflower mushroom “steaks” are made by cooking and smashing chunks of cauliflower mushroom between two heavy pans, thus creating attractively flattened pieces of perfectly cooked cauliflower mushrooms. Due to speed, ease, and results, this cooking method is our newfound favorite way to make cauliflower mushrooms.
A cauliflower mushroom foraging story
There are lots of cauliflower mushrooms to be found from late summer through early fall where we live in the Southeast US. On our most recent outing, The Tyrant spotted a large one but recommended I leave it rather than harvesting it.
Why? We already had another cauliflower in our fridge from a previous foraging trip, and cleaning cauliflower mushrooms is a chore. Plus, she said, “I don’t really like cauliflower mushrooms.”
(*For the record, The Tyrant loves our cauliflower mushroom sweet corn quiche, it’s just not a quick recipe to make.)
“Let me try something new,” I replied, as I harvested the beast. It just so happened that earlier that day, I’d been on our Instagram account and noticed someone’s post about making maitake mushroom “steaks” by flattening them between two pans. (Sorry, Instagram stranger, I don’t remember who you are so can’t give credit.)
Home we went with another cauliflower mushroom and (me) with a challenge to create a fast and easy cauliflower mushroom recipe that The Tyrant would like.
Cleaning cauliflower mushrooms
When cleaning wild-foraged, large coral-like mushrooms with countless internal chambers — whether maitakes or cauliflowers — steel yourself for encounters with both 6-legged and 600-legged creatures (millipedes), in addition to some gastropods.
As we detail in our article How to find, ID, and eat cauliflower mushrooms, we typically do a brief saltwater soak on our pre-cleaned cauliflowers. However, when making cauliflower mushroom steaks, you can skip that step.
Here’s how to clean cauliflower mushrooms to remove both dirt and critters alike before making cauliflower mushroom steaks:
1. Use a sharp knife to cut off dirt-covered areas around the underside base of the mushroom. (Ideally, you can do this step when you initially harvest the mushroom, which then prevents it from getting dirtier during transport.)
2. Then cut or pull the cauliflower mushroom apart into smaller sections that will end up being your “steaks.” Rinse each section under a faucet and/or with a kitchen sprayer to remove debris and critters. Don’t be surprised when you find millipedes deep inside the internal chambers of the mushroom.
Making cauliflower mushroom steaks
Before jumping into the how-to’s, a quick overview of what you’re trying to do when making this recipe… Basically, you’re going to compress larger pieces of cauliflower mushroom into evenly cooked, flattened pieces while also “sweating” (removing the water) from the mushrooms.
The result isn’t akin to a thick bovine steak per se, it’s more of a thin, highly flavorful strip of cauliflower mushroom which you’ll then garnish with fresh-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, fresh thyme, salt, and a splash of lemon juice.
Step 1: Find the ideal cookware.
Once you have your cauliflower mushroom cleaned and cut/pulled into pieces, you’ll need to find the right cookware. The ideal cookware is two heavy skillets that fit snuggly into each other.
Since we have a good collection of antique cast iron cookware, this was pretty simple for us.
IF you don’t have two pans that will stack together, you can also use a single pan and do your mushroom flattening with a metal spatula, possibly assisted by pressing down harder with a bowl on top.
Step 2: Turn stovetop to medium heat and heavily butter your pan.
Get your pan heated (not too hot!) then add a generous portion of unsalted butter to coat the bottom. (If all you have is salted butter, just skip garnishing with salt at the end).
Alternatively, instead of butter, you can use extra virgin olive oil. No, the popular claim about oil smoke points and not using EV olive oil in high heat situations isn’t supported by science. Extra virgin olive oil is actually chemically stable even at high temps.
Step 3: Add mushrooms and crush-cook them just until done, but not burned.
Once your butter is melted, add a round of cauliflower mushroom pieces then immediately press down with your pan. You can use your hands to press down on your first round, but plan on wearing oven mitts once your pan heats up.
You’ll soon hear your mushrooms shrieking as the water hits the hot oil. Keep pressing down. After a few minutes, as the water exits and the chitin-glucan in the mushroom cell walls degrades, the tensile strength will reduce to the point that your pan won’t do much pushing back.
After 4-5 minutes, flip the mushroom pieces over and repeat the process until both sides are lightly browned.
Do NOT scorch or over-cook your cauliflower mushrooms or they can develop a burned, acrid taste.
If you’re not serving them for a while, use the keep-warm setting in your oven. This is not a dish you want to serve cold.
4. Plate, dress, and serve.
Nothing complicated needed here:
- Sprinkle on some salt, unless you used salted butter.
- Microplane on some quality parm, hopefully the real thing, Parmigiano-Reggiano.
- Add some fresh thyme leaves from the garden.
- Spritz with lemon juice.
Eat your cauliflower steaks warm as an appetizer or a side dish.
Did The Tyrant like this cauliflower mushroom and deem it a worthy offering? Yes. Yes, she did.
And she’ll now let me harvest others we come across even if our fridge runneth over because we now have a fast and tasty way to cook them. We hope you enjoy this recipe, too!
Recipe: Cauliflower mushroom steaks
Cauliflower mushroom steaks
Want to make cauliflower mushrooms quickly? This cauliflower mushroom steak recipe is the best, fastest way to turn them into a delicious meal.
- cauliflower mushroom, cut or torn into 3-4" chunks
- butter or extra virgin olive oil as-needed to provide generous oil to pan
- salt, to taste (unless you used salted butter)
- fresh-grated parmesan cheese, to taste
- fresh thyme, as garnish
- lemon juice, light spritz over top
Clean and pull cauliflower mushroom into 3-4" chunks, as detailed in article.
Get out two nested skillets. The larger bottom skillet will do the cooking and the smaller top one will be used to presss down on the mushroom chunks. Place bottom skillet on stovetop over medium heat and add butter or extra virgin olive oil to the pan. Once heated, add an arrangement of cauliflower mushroom chunks, then immediately press down with smaller pan to flatten them and push water out.
Cook on one side for 4-5 minutes, then flip and cook on other side for 4-5 minutes or until just starting to get browned. Do not overcook or blacken mushroom pieces or cauliflower mushroom can take on acrid, off flavors. Repeat as needed until all mushroom pieces are cooked.
Arrange on plate. Sprinkle on salt (unless you used salted butter), fresh grated parmesan cheese, thyme, and lemon juice. Serve warm, not cold!
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