This dish just works. Oyster mushrooms are great fried because they stay nice and firm. To keep the mushrooms from getting greasy, I use a thin, tempura-style batter that fries up fast and super-crisp. For something creamy, the fonduta acts like a classier version of ranch dip (it’s always good to have something creamy with fried food).
Enough for 4 small plates
Oyster mushrooms – 10 ounces of large clusters
Sharp white cheddar cheese – 8 ounces
Heavy cream – 1 1/2 cups
White pepper – a couple grinds
Canola oil for frying
Cornstarch – 1/2 cup
All-purpose flour – 1/2 cup
Fresh sage leaves
Chiffonade – 1 tablespoon
Rubbed sage – 1 teaspoon
Club soda or seltzer water – 1 cup cold
Candied garlic syrup (recipe below) – about 1/3 cup
1. Trim the tough root end from the mushrooms, leaving the clusters as intact as possible. Set aside.
2. Cut the cheese into 1/2-inch chunks and place in a microwavesafe bowl. Loosely cover with wax paper or parchment paper and microwave on 50 percent power until the cheese softens but doesn’t completely melt, about 30 seconds.
3. In a 2-quart saucepan, bring the cream to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in the cheese, a couple of grinds of white pepper, and a small pinch of salt until everything looks smooth. Keep the fonduta warm until you’re ready to serve it. If you need to hold it for more than an hour, it keeps warm best in a double boiler.
4. Heat the oil in a deep fryer to 350°F. Place a cooling rack over a baking sheet.
5. In a large bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, flour, fresh sage, and dried sage. Add a few ice cubes to the club soda and swirl to chill. Remove the ice cubes and whisk the club soda into the cornstarch mixture to form a smooth batter. Working with one mushroom cluster at a time, dip and swirl the cluster in the batter to completely coat the mushrooms. Let excess batter drip away, then drop the clusters, one by one, into the fryer and fry until crispy, about 2 minutes. The mushrooms won’t brown but will have a very crispy coating. Using a spider strainer or tongs, transfer the fried mushrooms to the rack and immediately sprinkle with salt.
6. For each plate, spoon one-quarter of the fonduta in the center, drizzle with the garlic syrup, then mound one-quarter of the fried mushrooms on top.
Candied Garlic Syrup
Makes about 1/2 cup candied garlic cloves and 1 1/4 cups candied garlic syrup
Sugar – 1 cup
Cider vinegar – 1 cup
Garlic – 3 whole heads, each clove peeled and trimmed of its woody end, about 30 cloves total
1. In a small nonreactive saucepan, stir together the sugar and vinegar and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cut the heat down to low; cook until the garlic is golden brown and soft, about 30 minutes. Store the garlic in the syrup mixture, covered, in the refrigerator.