King Oyster Mushrooms (officially named Pleurotus eryngii) go by quite a lot of different names. You may well encounter them as ‘King Trumpets’, ‘Trumpet Royales’, or even ‘French Horn Mushrooms’, depending on where you live.
The flavor of this variety is not especially remarkable in that they have roughly the same fungi-umami taste you would get from, say, Portobello’s, fresh Shiitake, or even just the plain white Button variety. What is special about them is the texture, which is very meaty and chewy, much like the similar ‘Oyster Mushrooms’ (which are similar, but just haven’t been elevated to ‘royal’ status). They can be lovely in stews or braised dishes, but are also terrific when grilled or pan-fried by themselves with just a little seasoning…
Size and Appearance
Here, you can see the entire contents of a single package purchased for this post. These particular mushrooms were actually labeled as ‘Baby King Oysters Mushrooms’, but this merely reflects their diminutive size rather than denoting a separate sub-species. Some specimens can grow quite large (up to a pound in weight) and I have occasionally seen some whose stem was almost as thick as my wrist.
There was quite a wide variety of sizes among the ones I purchased for this post. This can be a bit annoying if you are serving them whole and want uniformity in your plating and serving sizes. Personally, I would much rather be able to pick and choose from loose mushrooms rather than buy them in sealed packages.
The largest specimen in my current purchase was about 5 inches or so in greatest dimension (roughly 12.5 cm) and, here, I have sliced it into three sections, which is how it will be cooked. You can, of course, cook the mushrooms whole, but this tends to produce better results for the smaller ones.
If you look somewhat closely, you should be able to get a sense of how dense the inner ‘meat’ can be. It is also quite fibrous, which might suggest a ‘stringy’ texture when eaten, but, in fact, the consistency has more of the same ‘chewy’ bit of a tender veal cutlet, rather than rump-steak from an old heifer.
Using King Oyster Mushrooms
King Oyster Mushrooms can be used in just about any recipe where some other species would be used. They are amenable to just about any cookery process but, as already mentioned, they are spectacularly suited to grilling.
Here is a small appetizer in which King Oyster Mushrooms are cooked using both braising and grilling.
First, I pan-fried them in a little oil at low temperature until they threw off most of their liquid and became nicely softened, and then I continued to braise them with added butter, a little wine, minced garlic, a sprinkling of black pepper and, lastly, a little lemon juice.
Later, I grilled the slices to add some pleasing grill marks, and a little addition flavor, and served them with a little sage butter drizzled over (You could use a simple Parsley butter, if that is all you have, but sage is terrific with mushrooms).
One of the nice things about this method, if you want to use it, is that you can do the initial braising well in advance, keep the mushrooms in some of the braising liquid until needed, and then quickly grill them at the last moment before serving.
The garnishes, by the way, are a sprig of Rosemary, and a sprig of flowers from one of my Vietnamese Basil plants.