“Correct identification is crucial. If you think you’ve found a giant puffball the first thing to do is cut it open. It should have thick, hard, white flesh inside. Don’t eat anything with a brown, black, purple, or yellow interior. It may be an earthball (Scleroderma citrinum) or some other gastric distress inducing mushroom.” (Source.)
the puffball mushroom. between late summer and early fall, you’ll find these soccer ball-esque beauties hanging around on the ground. if you’ve read even a few posts on this blog, you already know how much i love finding things on the ground. that is to say, a lot.
keep your eyes peeled and you may be surprised to find your own puffball! you may better recognize the “puffball” in its more mature stage. as a kid, i called the brown, tough skinned, mature puffballs “smoke bombs”; an apt description of the puffballs as they release their spores into the air in a smoke-like cloud.
note that it’s not edible at that stage. nope. you’ve been warned. in fact, google it before you eat something. i won’t have your *ahem* “gastric distress” weighing on my conscience.
“Giant puffballs are saprotrophs, meaning they feed on dead organic matter. They’re more likely found in meadows and grasslands than in the forest. They are always found growing on the ground rather than up in trees.” (Source.)
in fact, this one is pretty important: remove the skin.
“Since the outer layer can cause gastrointestinal distress in some individuals, remove the skin with a knife before proceeding with any method of cooking.” (Source.)
now that i got that out of the way, my good friend gerry found a puffball mushroom on a hike this morning and then we spent the next 3 hours watching season 2 of top chef canada. the perfect combo for a night spent cooking us some puffball, and a foodie nerd collaboration that resulted in two really, really amazing dishes.
it behoves me to note that, after about 10 years of vegetarianism, i have recently been re-assessing the ideas and assumptions i made about meat at age 16 and experimenting with some meat in my diet. let’s call it “cruelty free, flexitarian”. or, let’s call it nothing. so, there’s that. but that is, perhaps, a story for another day.
matt and i were basically sheep following the competent command of our great friend, masterful cuisinart, and metaphorical shepherd, gerry. who is as handsome as he is adept in the kitchen. i wish he would leave so i could write the rest of this post in peace.
for those pho fans amongst us, the point of this recipe was still to make an incredible broth, and to use the heat of the broth to help cook the toppings. we opted for a “deconstructed” version of pho in that we infused ground beef with some of the flavours normally found in the broth (namely, cinnamon), and used a wonton noodle as a vehicle for the beef as opposed to the standard glass noodles.
for me, the gluteny wonton noodles left me a little cold so i opted for a simpler version of the ground beef, simply binded with an egg.
in this case, the sliced puffball mushroom acted as a spongy base, absorbing a delicious chicken broth. the puffball was tender, salty, and took on a texture akin to firm tofu.
if the oozy egg yolk doesn’t make your mouth water, make this for the sake of the miso gravy. the salty, earthy taste of the miso gravy pulled the dish together, while the tangy arugula & fresh scallions provided some lightness and balance. the seared puffball had a very similar texture to the egg white, but with some more toughness. the light, nutty taste made it the perfect base for this tower-of-awesome.
top chef canada, here we come.
xx katty lea