If you've got one of these big, round, white, alien-looking mushrooms growing near you, lucky you! Turn it into this lip-smacking treat - Puffball Schnitzel. Crispy-crusted slabs of mild, soft, earthy mushroom topped with an umami sage & onion gravy are a match made in gourmet heaven. (Skip to recipe.)
Stomp, stomp. . . poof. Stomp, stomp . . . poof.
Was that you as a kid, when you saw a weird brown globe of puffball in ditch or field?
That's all I ever thought puffballs were good for; stomping them fiercely. It was such fun to trample those old balls to release a poof of dusty spores into the air. Maybe you were a wizard and there was some fusty magic in that hazy purplish cloud. More often than not, we stomped and ran!
Well, the only thing magical about puffballs is their amazing flavour when you eat them before they become musty dust bombs.
A friend gifted me with a big pail full of these white giants she found in her lawn (it's been a rainy year around here - great puffball weather). I left my puffballs for a few days before I had time to get to them, and unfortunately most of them were turning dark inside and I had to chuck them out, but one was still immature, edible, and delicious.
Even Pippa wonders what those weird things are.
To make sure your puffball (Calvatia gigantea) is edible, cut it in half vertically and look closely at the inside; it must be solidly white throughout the center (excluding any signs of insect feasting). If it shows any markings of a stem or gills developing, throw it out as it's not a puffball and can be toxic. If it's evenly white, you're good to go. Trim off the peel and any bits of brown around the base of the mushroom or bits of insect tracks, and it's ready for deliciousness.
Slice it into slabs about as thick as slices of bread, and you can use it for all kinds of epicurean delights.
Check out my post on puffball mushrooms and how to identify them, plus many more tips on how to prepare them and freeze them:
Or make this fantastic recipe:
Crispy, Golden Puffball Schnitzel
First, you'll want to get your gravy started. Peel and finely dice two large onions (the food processor makes quick work of this). Cook them low and slow in a bit of oil until they are deep golden in colour, sweet and caramelized - this takes about 20 minutes. Add the other ingredients and you've got a pot of luscious Sage and Onion Gravy.
Now get your puffball ready. First you'll need to cut it through the middle and make sure it's white all the way through. Yellow, purple, or brown on the inside means it has started to make spores and it's inedible. This puffball had a bit of brown around the edges, so all I had to do was trim the brown bits off. The inside was still white and firm - like a damp, dense sponge. Peel the outer layer of the puffball off with a knife, as that can sometimes cause tummy upset in some people (and it's usually kind of tough and leathery anyway - kind of textured like dinosaur skin).
Cut it into thick slabs for the schnitzel.
Now get yourself a breading station going: one bowl for flour, one for beaten egg, and one for breadcrumbs.
Dip the slice of puffball first into the flour, then the egg, then finally coat it with the breadcrumbs. Set the breaded slabs onto a plate.
Heat up some oil and fry a handful of sage leaves. It only take a few seconds and they turn nice and crispy. They flavour the oil and make a pretty garnish that's fun to eat (kinda like sage chips). Sprinkle with salt and set them aside.
Now fry up the puffball schnitzel pieces until they are golden and crunchy on the outsides.
Your crispy, tender puffball schnitzel is ready for a luxurious coat of gravy. Maybe a sprinkle of some fresh chopped sage leaves, too.
Look at that snowy white inside and crispy crunchy outside of the schnitzel, all slathered with a lava flow of umami gravy. Heaven.
Here's hoping you find a puffball treasure in your grass, or some generous friend drops a puffball off on your doorstep.
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Kitchen Frau Notes: This recipe makes enough so you'll have some extra gravy for on top of leftovers, fried mushrooms, meats, or to freeze for a rainy day.
If you don't have fresh sage leaves, just omit the sage-frying step. Crispy sage leaves are nice, but optional. You could sprinkle a bit of chopped parsley, chives, or green onions on top of the finished schnitzel dish for a touch of colour and flavour, if you like.
for the gravy:
- 3 tablespoons oil
- 2 large onions (500 gms total)
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 teaspoon ground dried sage
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce (gluten free)
- 2 cups (480ml) beef stock or mushroom stock
- 2 tablespoon sweet rice flour (or regular flour for non-gluten-free)
- ½ cup (120ml) water
- 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- salt to taste
for the puffball schnitzel:
- 1 lb (454gms) trimmed, peeled puffball (from about 1½ lbs of a whole puffball)
- ⅓ cup sweet rice flour (or regular flour for non-gluten-free)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup of fine dry bread crumbs (gluten free, if necessary)
- ½ cup (120ml) high-heat-tolerant oil for frying
- 8 fresh sage leaves, optional
Make the Sage & Onion Gravy: Peel and cut the onions into large chunks, then mince them finely in the food processor - pulse it in short bursts, so you don't over-process them into mush. (Or mince the onions finely by hand.) Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they are evenly browned and caramelized - this should take about 20 minutes. Watch that they don't burn near the end as the sugars start to caramelize.
Add the garlic, sage, and pepper, and cook for one more minute. Then add the soy sauce and beef or mushroom stock, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen all the flavourful bits. Bring the stock to a boil. In a small jar, shake together the water and sweet rice flour (or regular flour), and pour this slurry into the gravy while stirring. Cook and stir until the gravy thickens.
Add the balsamic vinegar and taste for seasoning. Add more salt or pepper if needed. Turn down the heat to very low, cover, and keep the gravy warm.
Make the Schnitzel: While the onions are caramelizing, prepare the puffball schnitzel for frying and set them aside.
Peel and trim any dark spots from your puffball. Cut it into slabs about as thick as a slice of bread.
Set out three bowls or shallow containers for your breading station. In the first one, combine the sweet rice flour with the salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder. In the second one, beat two eggs. In the third one, put the bread crumbs.
Dip each slab of puffball first into the seasoned flour, then into the beaten egg, making sure to completely cover every bit, then finally into the bread crumbs, again making sure every surface is fully covered. (This works best if you use one hand for dipping the puffball into the flour and egg mixtures, and the other hand for dipping it into the crumbs.) Set the breaded puffball slabs onto a plate or cutting board in a single layer.
When the gravy is ready and shortly before you're ready to eat, heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. If you are using the fresh sage leaves, lay them into the hot oil in a single layer and fry them for a few seconds on one side, then turn them over and fry them for a few seconds on the other side, just until they start to turn a bit brownish in spots. Quickly remove them and lay them on a paper towel. Sprinkle them lightly with salt. They will crisp up as they cool.
Fry the slabs of puffball schnitzel in the hot oil, about 3 to 4 minutes per side, until they are golden and crispy. Remove the fried schnitzels to a paper towel lined plate. You may have to cook them in two batches.
Serve the schnitzel with the gravy and top each serving with two crispy fried sage leaves (or a sprinkling of chopped fresh parsley or sage leaves).
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