Madura Farm has a stand at the Farmer’s market near me, and they have really expanded their selection in the last few weeks. For a long time there were shitakes, creminis, and oyster mushrooms. Eventually portobellos appeared, and then maitake mushrooms. About a month ago, there were three new types: royal oyster, pricey chanterelles, and these weird furry balls. I immediately asked about them. Madura explained that the pom pom mushrooms have a seafood-like flavor, but he mainly grows them for what he called their “myco-medicinal” properties. Pom poms are supposed to be good for the nervous system and brain functions. I asked for two of them, and then asked for cooking suggestions. “Just cook them in a little bit of butter,” he said.
I took the advice but made the dish into something a little more substantial. First I cleaned and sliced the mushrooms, which don’t really have any stems. I lightly browned them in some butter and olive oil, with salt and pepper, and added some parsley. I threw some cooked angel hair pasta into the pot, cooked it all together for a minute, and served it up with some more fresh parsley and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.
I should point out that whenever I get a new ingredient, something I’ve never had before I try to prepare it as simply as possible in order to get at the real flavor of the product. So if it seems I played it a little safe with this dish, you’re right.
I have to say, the pom poms had NO flavor at all, other than the butter and salt and pepper they had been cooked in. The texture was the most remarkable thing about it; it was similar to textured vegetable protein (TVP) chicken you get at vegetarian chinese restaurants, only looser. It was not exactly pleasant in this particular dish. I can only hope that my body will reap the benefits.