"And take a look you may see me on the ground
For I am the parasite of this town.”*
Some parasites can be good. Take an undistinguished wild mushroom and let it play host to a parasitic fungus (Hypomyces lactiflourum, if you must know) and the result is a lobster mushroom, so called because its bright orange color resembles the shell of a cooked lobster.
Lobster mushrooms appear late summer and into the early autumn so I paired them with some corn, which will begin disappearing the deeper we get into autumn. This is a dish about a slow letting go now that summer has passed and autumn is here.
I paired them with gnocchi a la Parisienne, the French version of gnocchi made with pate a choux dough. You can pair it with regular gnocchi from the store or local Italian market or just pasta.
This recipe is a simple sauté, cooking the mushrooms and making a broth in the pan. Add the corn kernels and the cooked gnocchi, toss, taste, and serve.
Lobster Mushrooms and Corn with Gnocchi a la Parisienne
For 4 servings
¼ to ½ pound fresh lobster mushrooms (depending on how flush you are)
4 ears of corn, husked
1 Tablespoon minced shallot
1 Tablespoon chopped garlic
1 to 2 Tablespoons minced chives, for garnish
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ to ½ cup water, or more
salt and ground black pepper
one batch of the gnocchi a la parisienne
1. Clean the mushrooms of any dirt. Trim off the bottom of the mushrooms and discard. Slice the mushrooms into ¼”wide pieces and set aside.
2. Cut the corn kernels off the cob; stand the corn upright in a bowl and slice down the length of the cob. Discard the cobs.
3. Heat a large non-stick sauté pan over medium-high heat. Swirl in 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil. Add the shallot and cook for two to three minutes. Add the mushrooms to the pan; add additional olive oil if the pan appears dry. Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper; add the garlic and cook until the garlic is fragrant. Add some water to the pan and reduce the heat. Cook the mushrooms for 3 to 4 minutes. A simple broth should be forming in the pan as the mushrooms cook. Add the corn, season with salt and pepper, and add additional water to the pan. Cook until the mushrooms are tender.
4. Add the butter to the pan of vegetables. Add the cooked gnocchi to the pan and stir to combine. Test for seasonings and adjust. When the gnocchi are warmed through, divide between four bowls. Garnish with a scattering of the additional minced chives and serve.
Gnocchi a la Parisienne
Unlike Italian gnocchi dough, which is made from potatoes, gnocchi a la parisienne is made from choux dough.
It is piped from a piping bag, not rolled and cut like traditional gnocchi. Pate a choux is better known as the basis for cream puffs or éclairs. Here the sugar is omitted. The dough can be made ahead of time, kept in a lightly oiled bowl with plastic wrap pressed directly on the top.
All pate a choux recipes are basically the same with equal amounts liquid to flour. It is easier to make in an electric mixer but if you beat the eggs into the dough by hand it will be a fine workout.
Here are a few tips when using a pastry bag. After you fit the tip into the bag, twist the bag at the bottom and push it into the top of the tip. In this way the dough won’t escape before you’re ready. To make the bag easier to fill, fit into a container with the top ends of the bag draped over the top edge of the container which will hold the bag open as you add the choux dough.
Don’t over fill the pastry bag. Twist to seal the bag and always press from the bottom of the bag.
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 Grade A large eggs
2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon minced chive
1. Place the water, salt, and unsalted butter into a medium-sized saucepan. Place the pan over high heat Remove from heat and let cool. Place the dough mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the eggs one at a time until each egg is mixed into the dough. The dough should be smooth. Add the cheese and chives and mix until combined.
2. Fill a medium-sized saucepan halfway with water; lightly salt the water. Bring the water to a simmer. Fit the choux paste into a pastry bag fitted with a 5/8” –wide tube tip (I use a #807 tip). Rest the tip of the bag onto the edge of the saucepan and use a small knife to cut 1” pieces of the dough as you press out the dough; don’t over crowd the pan. Gently poach the gnocchi until they rise to the top; allow the gnocchi to cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the gnocchi with a slotted spoon and let them drain on a paper towel lined baking pan. The completed gnocchi can be placed onto a lightly oiled tray and frozen. When the gnocchi are frozen, they can be transferred to a sealable plastic bag and stored for future use.
Makes approximately 80+ one inch gnocchi, enough for 4 servings
*Nick Drake, “Parasite”