Since my original plans for my fiancé’s birthday were canceled as the world descended into the COVID-19 epidemic and ensuing panic, I instead bought him a lion’s mane mushroom grow kit. For the past several weeks, a white mass has slowly crept from the grow-box and swelled, transforming from what looked like a dab of insulation spray foam to a few large, regal, furry domes. Now, the question was, how to cook them?
This is a summery, indulgent recipe. The seafood-taste of the mushrooms is augmented by the crab meat and lots of butter, which is the friend of seafood and mushrooms alike. Fresh herbs and a generous squeeze of lemon brighten up the richness of the dish, and the lush meatiness of the mushrooms and crabmeat is complemented by snappy bites of asparagus. At a time where our days blur one into the other as we endure quarantine, it’s something a little bit special. Enjoy it for a stay-at-home date, or a treat for yourself.
½ lb gemelli, penne, or pasta of your choice
1 TBSP olive oil
About 8 oz lion’s mane* mushrooms, cut into bite-sized cubes
1 ½ sticks butter, cut into chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
A generous splash of white wine
8 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into 1” pieces
8 oz lump crab meat (or imitation)
½ cup TBSP parmesan, plus more to top if desired
A handful mixed herbs, such as tarragon, parsley, mint, and thyme, chopped
The zest of one lemon, finely chopped
The freshly squeezed juice of half a lemon, plus lemon wedges to serve
*If you can’t get your hands on lion’s manes, oyster mushrooms will work.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and add the pasta. Cook to al dente according to package instructions. Reserve a half-cup of the starchy pasta water, setting aside for later. Drain the pasta well, return to the pot, add the olive oil, and stir well (so that the pasta is coated with oil and doesn’t stick together).
Meanwhile, place a dry skillet (large) over medium heat and add the lion’s mane mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms begin to release their liquid; add the stick of butter, salt, pepper, white wine, and garlic. Cook for about 7 minutes, add the asparagus, and cook until the asparagus is still snappy but fork-tender, about 5 minutes.
Add the crabmeat and the rest of the butter, and cook for about a minute. Turn the heat to medium low. Add the pasta, pasta water, parmesan, herbs, and lemon zest to the mushrooms and stir well. Squeeze the lemon over the mushroom-pasta mixture, stir again, taste, and adjust seasoning as necessary. Serve hot with more parmesan and lemon wedges, if desired.