Few diners could get bored with the selection of mushrooms at GW Fins seafood restaurant in New Orleans.
Chef-owner Tenney Flynn is as likely to use wild or exotic mushrooms in his menu offerings as he is the plain whitecaps.
“Everyone uses (mushrooms) as a component,” he said. “They’re a great garnish.”
But Flynn enjoys spicing up his dishes with hen of the woods or beech mushrooms — varieties you’re not likely to find in your neighborhood supermarket.
“I think that piques people’s interest,” he said.
Thanks to the variety of flavors that different mushrooms offer, it’s not difficult to find one or more that marry well with just about any dish, he said.
Mushrooms by themselves make a great garnish, he said, and sautéed mushrooms are a welcome addition to just about any plate.
And they’re easy to work with. A quick saute is enough to heat up most mushrooms, though some varieties require a bit more cooking.
GW Fins prints a new menu every day that usually includes three or four kinds of mushrooms.
Even more are added during the winter, Flynn said.
He uses them in broth and mushroom risotto, and he even makes a mushroom beurre blanc that he drizzles over scallops.
“I just made a butter where I used some dried porcinis that have a strong, earthy flavor, and I mixed those with domestic mushrooms to get a very nice balance of flavor,” he said.
A wintertime favorite is roasted cauliflower with chanterelles or matsukes.
“They pair together wonderfully,” he said.
Flynn’s favorites “depend on the day,” but typically include crimini, portabella and shiitake mushrooms.
“I enjoy working with hen of the woods (also called maitake),” he said, because they have an exotic appearance on the plate.
They likely got their name from the fact that they resemble the feathers of a hen, he said.
Straw mushrooms, grown on rice straw, are another variety he uses quite a bit, and king oyster, enoki and king trumpet varieties also turn up on his menu.
He likes to slice king oysters, poach them in butter or olive oil and cook them on the grill.
“They have a wonderful, meaty texture,” he said.
Mushroom risotto is one of Flynn’s most popular dishes.
He prepares it as he would a standard risotto and includes shallots, butter, garlic, Arborio rice and mushroom stock.
Toward the end of the process, he folds in a mixture of sautéed mushrooms that includes criminis and shitakes, and he serves it with a beurre blanc made with pureed varieties of mushrooms and wood-grilled scallops.
Braised sable fish is another favorite.
Flynn makes it with a mushroom broth lightly seasoned with five-spice powder, and he includes a variety of domestic mushrooms, such as beech and enoki.
“I put them on the broth raw and pour the boiling broth over the mushrooms,” he said. “That is all the cooking they get.”
He serves the broth over a duck dumpling with braised fish.
A personal wintertime favorite that Flynn doesn’t serve at the restaurant very often is a mixed mushroom quiche.
He layers a variety of domestic and wild mushrooms in a pie shell, dots them with chunks of cheese, then pours rich custard over them and slides the dish into the oven.
Flynn sources most of his mushrooms from regular produce purveyors in 3- and 5-pound boxes.
He sometimes orders wild mushrooms from local foragers and occasionally orders product from Wine Forest, Napa, Calif.