Chicken Fried Mushroom & Southern Sides Bowl

Chicken fried anything is bound to be pretty decent. I’ve applied the technique to tofu successfully, and plan to chicken fry all sorts of foods in my (hopefully) long life. That said, my longevity is probably reducing in direct correlation to the amount of the chicken frying I do.

One thing I’ll say, I never really got chicken fried steak. Even for this glutton, it was a little too much.

Recently, I’ve found myself somehow digitally wandering over to a recipe for Buffalo Oyster Mushrooms on the hot for food blog on a daily basis. I’m not even a mushroom lover, but I have a soft spot for oyster mushrooms thanks to their mild flavour and an almost meaty texture.

My interest in this recipe was nearing obsession when, good news everybody, my friends Brittany and Ivan over at The Ugly Barn Farm had their first batches of oyster mushrooms for sale! I figured it was time to get fryin’.

Usually at this point, I’d say click here for the recipe. to avoid all my jabbering, and you can… but I didn’t include recipes for all the components of this dish because I’d be lying if I said I had any. I made them up. Instead, I’ll talk you through the dish from beginning to end, and include the more exact recipe I used for the mushrooms at the end.

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I don’t remember having fried chicken as a kid. I’m not counting wings or chicken fingers here, I’m talking real, southern-style fried chicken.

As a teenager, I had a bite of someone’s KFC but that’s about it. My first solid memory of trying fried chicken was in Ottawa at Jean Albert’s (now closed). I fell in love, as much with the sides as the main: smokey, salty greens, and crispy, creamy coleslaw.

I wanted to somehow combine the idea of chicken fried mushrooms with a couple of these classic sides in the form of a grain bowl, using some grits my mom picked up for me in Kentucky as the base (thanks Mom!)

I started by cooking one cup of grits according to the package directions, then stirred in some extra salt, a couple big spoonfuls of coconut cream, a tablespoon or so of miso, and nutritional yeast. Honestly, I wasn’t feeling the coconut cream but Brady still gave the dish a 9 out of 10 so it must have been OK. Next time, I want to substitute some of the water with plain almond milk instead.

The sides offered an opportunity to use up some neat ingredients I had on hand; some more recently acquired, some that I’ve had for ages.

First, Brady’s friends kindly gave us an armful of greens from their garden a couple days ago (thanks Patrick and Amy!) Along with Thai basil, sorrel, and parsley, there was about two bunches worth of kale and chard. I figured I’d combine the two greens in a smokey side dish, reminiscent of collards but with less pork and cooked in less time.

For the greens, I cooked a small chopped shallot and a thinly sliced clove of garlic in some oil until lightly browned. As it cooked, I chopped up the greens, removing the stems. I mixed one chopped chipotle pepper in adobo sauce with a couple teaspoons of bourbon cask aged soy sauce (another Kentucky gift, so I figured it would pair well!) and a hefty tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. I tossed the greens and sauce mixture into the oil and onions, mixed it together, covered it tight, and let it cook over medium heat for no more than five minutes. At that point it was beautifully wilted but still a vibrant green. Done.

Next, I decided to make a ranch-like sauce by blending a handful of parsley (also from the gifted greens) with about 1/2 cup of Hellman’s vegan mayo, 1/4 cup each of soy milk and water, a small scallion, a tablespoon of chopped shallot, a small garlic clove, a teaspoon each of garlic and onion powder, a hefty squeeze of lemon juice, and some salt and pepper to taste.

I tossed some of the ranch with sliced red cabbage – we always have a head in the fridge – and let it sit while I cooked the mushrooms. Very easy.

Finally, I thought some of the pickled green cherry tomatoes my mom made a couple years ago would tart up the dish perfectly, so I threw on some of those. Regular pickles, or pickled anything really, would work just as well.

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The results?

A chicken-fried mushroom bowl with southern-inspired greens, coleslaw, and tangy pickles, with extra ranch on the side and plenty of hot sauce, of course.

One warning, I followed hot for food’s recipe pretty closely in terms of amounts and ratios for the mushrooms, and it made more mushrooms than the two of us could fathom eating in one sitting. We each had some on our bowl, I sent some with spicy mayo into the basement with Brady and his friends while they jammed, and I still had enough left over for both of us to have a lunch today. Chicken fried mushroom sandwich, it turns out, is very good.

If you take note of the previous photo, and the one at the very, very bottom of this post, maybe you’ll understand why I take most of my photos outside. And why I’m afraid of the basement.

Another note, this makes a smelly mess of your kitchen. Next time, I’ll probably just make a whack of these and keep the sides to a minimum or make ’em in advance.

Anyhow, onto the real recipe. For your enjoyment…

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Chicken Fried Mushrooms

Make enough for at least 4 people and up to 6
Based on hot for food’s Buffalo Oyster Mushrooms

1 lb oyster mushrooms
3 to 4 cups peanut or other high heat oil

Batter Ingredients

3/4 cup plain soy milk (1/4 cup reserved)
3/4 cup water (1/4 cup reserved)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
a couple grinds black pepper

Breading Ingredients

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
a few grinds black pepper

Mix all of the batter ingredients in a large bowl until just mixed, keep the extra soy milk and water apart for now.

Divide the batter between two bowls, add the mushrooms to one and toss to coat and let marinate for half an hour or so.

Mix all of the breading ingredients together in a large, wide bowl.

When the mixture is almost done marinating, heat two inches of oil in a relatively tall-sided cast iron pan or a heavy bottomed pot until it’s 350° F.

Coat the mushrooms in the breading mixture, then dip in the second bowl of batter, return to the breading mixture for a second coating, then fry for around four minutes per side in the hot oil. Remove to paper towel lined baking sheets when done. Honestly, I use LCBO bags.

Don’t overcrowd the pan or the temperature will drop too fast and they’ll take longer than this to cook. Make sure the temperature returns to 350° F before starting your next batch.

I find flour from the breading thickens the batter over time, so I add a little of the reserved water and soy milk every once in a while to keep it the proper consistency.

When all the mushrooms are fried, throw them on a southern grain bowl, eat ’em straight up with spicy mayo or ranch, or use them in any recipe that calls for fried chicken!

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