Vern’s Cooking & Tidbits
By Vernon Summerlin

I’m sure you’ve heard the rhetorical question “Who was the first person to eat a raw oyster?” Someone very hungry would be my answer. So how did humans figure out which ‘shrooms to eat?
My research didn’t find the answer to that question but hieroglyphics from more than 4,500 years ago stated that ancient Egyptians believed mushrooms (the ones that didn’t kill the consumer) made humans immortal. We know that turned out to be a falsehood because pharaohs didn’t build pyramids for the fun of it. Pharaohs did decree that mushrooms were food for “royalty only” and no commoner could ever touch them. This assured the greedy eaters of the entire mushroom supply.
Many other cultures believed that an edible fungus could produce super human strength, help people find lost objects and lead the soul to the realm of the gods. Eating a “bad” mushroom could certainly lead the soul away from the body, however, its destination may be in question.
You can learn about edible fungi at http://mushroominfo.com/varieties. More in-depth info can be gleaned from Audubon Society’s Field Guide to North American Mushrooms. The book begins by stating, “Mushrooms are among the most mysterious life forms.” A major point made in the guide about eating ‘shrooms is “do not experiment.” The edibility of a great many fungi is not known.
One of this month’s recipes calls for mushroom soup made with cremini (or crimini) mushrooms. They have a fairly mild taste and blend well with almost anything. Their flavor intensifies when cooked. They can be sautéed, cooked any way you like and enjoyed raw in salads.
Lately I’ve seen articles advocating mixing chopped cremini with hamburger meat because it extends the volume plus adds more flavor and aroma. Yum! The cremini, a tan common button-type mushroom, has recently been shown to surpass some of the more exotic mushrooms (like shiitake or maitake) in terms of immune system benefits. Also mushrooms are the only item in the produce aisle containing vitamin D.

Homemade Cream of Mushroom Soup
Let’s be decadent and make your own cream of mushroom soup to use instead of the store-bought stuff for our crappie recipe. You can serve it as a first course but save some for the crappies. Thanks to http://damndelicious.net for this recipe.
1/4 cup unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 onion, diced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup red wine
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Melt butter in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add garlic and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and browned, about 5-6 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Stir in onion and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent, about 2-3 minutes.
Stir in wine and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Stir in chicken broth, heavy cream and thyme.
In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and 1/4 cup water. Stir in mixture to the soup until slightly thickened, about 1-2 minutes; season with salt and pepper, to taste. If the soup is too thin add more cornstarch as needed until desired consistency is reached.
This makes about six servings. I suggest setting aside about 10 to 12 ounces for our featured recipe…

Mushroomed Crappie
8-10 crappie fillets (about 1 1/2 pounds)
Salt & pepper to taste
10-12 ounces cream of mushroom soup (or one can of soup)
1 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Paprika
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease baking dish or spray with Pam-like oil. Salt and pepper fillets and put in baking dish. Spread cream of mushroom soup over fillets, top with grated cheese and sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes (until fish flakes). Serve as main dish or place crappies over noodles or rice.

For your sweet tooth try this simple recipe for Peanut-Cereal Bar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup peanut butter
3 cups toasted oat cereal (Cheerios)
1 cup salted peanuts
Grease a 9×13 inch pan. Stir sugar and honey in a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter until well blended. Stir in the cereal and salted peanuts. Press into the prepared pan. Allow to cool until firm, then cut into bars.