So this one time I had a lot of fat leftover from cutting New York strip steaks. And I was bored. So I decided to render it and play around a bit.
I had originally planned on confiting some root vegetables—golden beets, parsnips, carrots, that sort of thing. But a case of oyster mushrooms caught my eye and it just went from there.
Confit can mean a few different things. Some of you may be picturing a crispy-skinned, tender, insanely-delicious piece of duck. Maybe some of you are thinking about preserved fruit. I noticed that a lot of people I talk to believe “to confit” means to “cook in fat.” (I used to think that too, btw.) It really means “to preserve.” The cooking and storing in fat is really just a means of preservation. The fat forms a seal and protects food from the air and helps prevent spoilage.
The technique of confiting in fat also imparts a ton of flavor to foods. And in 2014, that’s the really important part of the technique.
The oyster mushrooms, gently cooked in beef fat, take on a rich, soul-satisfying beefy quality. The texture is tender with just enough chew.
The other components of this dish—cool, freshly made ricotta and grilled crostini—serve as counterpoints. Soft cheese and crisp, smoky bread combine with the mushrooms to make a balanced and satisfying bite.
Now, this isn’t so much a recipe as an overview of the techniques involved in putting the dish together. I didn’t measure anything. And honestly… You really don’t have to.
I made the ricotta for this dish–well, for something else, but I used it here too. I’ll post later on making ricotta, but purchased will obviously work just as well.
Oyster Mushroom Confit with Ricotta and Thyme on Crostini
Beef fat, at least one pound, cut into half-inch pieces
Whole cloves of garlic, 4 per pound of beef fat
Sprigs of fresh thyme, 5 per pound of fat, plus a few for garnish
Whole black peppercorns, 10 per pound of fat
Oyster mushrooms, as many as you want to cook and/or devour
Baguette, as much as you need cut on a diagonal
Ricotta, as much as you need
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
I wet rendered my fat and that is the process I am going to talk about. You could also dry render, but I feel it’s more work.
Put the fat into a heavy pot and add just enough water to cover. Set the pot over medium-high and bring to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, turn the heat down so that the water maintains a simmer. Over the next 30-45 minutes, the water will evaporate and the fat will melt. Eventually, you will end up with chunks of tissue simmering in mostly fat. When that happens, pour the entire contents of the pot through a coffee-filter lined strainer. Wipe out any solids from the pan and pour the fat back in. If you still have water mixed with your fat, bring it back to a simmer until the water is completely evaporated.
Add the garlic, peppercorns, sprigs of thyme and about a tablespoon of salt. Bring to a simmer and cook until the garlic starts to soften. Do not let the garlic brown. This should happen within 10 minutes.
While the fat is infusing, wash your oyster mushrooms. Cut or tear them into bite-sized pieces.
Once the garlic is soft, add the mushrooms to the fat. Do not add more mushrooms than can be submerged in the fat. You don’t want any sticking to far out of the fat as they won’t cook evenly.
Poach the mushrooms until they start to become tender, about 10-15 minutes.
While the mushrooms cook, slice the baguette. Grill or toast the bread after the mushrooms have finished cooking so that the bread will still be warm when you serve the finished dish.
To finish the dish:
Place a quenelle of unseasoned ricotta onto a crostini. Top with a piece or two of oyster mushroom. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Garnish with a few leaves of fresh thyme. When assembling, make sure you do not make the ricotta portion too large. It should be very easy to take a bite out of the finished product. It should be able to be eaten in no more than two bites.
Something awesome I just found out about oyster mushrooms: THEY COME IN PINK! Who knew?