King Oyster Mushroom with Roasted Cherries and Sage – No, That Isn’t Meat – Thought Process

King Oyster Mushroom with Roasted Cherries and Sage
King Oyster Mushroom with Roasted Cherries and Sage

I‘m often asked “where do you get your inspiration for the recipes?” I love this question because it gives me a chance to talk about all of the different places that ideas come from, but often in generalities. So today, I thought it might be interesting to focus on the specifics of how a particular dish came about.

Last week, the amazing Keren Brown put together an event at Emmer and Rye to give me a chance to talk with the Seattle food blogger community about my cookbook. Chef Seth Caswell put together a bunch of nice appetizers for us to enjoy on E&R’s new upstairs deck. One of my favorites was little squares of French toast topped with roasted cherries. I don’t think I’d ever had a roasted cherry before; these made a big impression on me. I was surprised at how well they maintained their structure when cooked. They didn’t break down into jam, but the texture and flavor was completely transformed. I knew right away that I wanted to play with that idea.

My first thought was to do something sweet. There is the traditional French clafoutis, which is an oven-baked pancake with cherries, and I imagined that pre-roasting them could only be a good thing. But it didn’t feel like a big enough twist. And then I remembered I’d said I would do something for an event that PBS is doing to celebrate Julia Child’s 100th birthday. The first dish I learned from my mom’s copy of Mastering the Art was crepes. So I considered doing crepes with roasted cherries, ricotta, and shaved dark chocolate. No way that isn’t going to be fantastic. Might have to come back to that one. But the event isn’t until September and cherries will be out of season.

Anyhow…. part of me wanted to see if I could take the roasted cherries in a savory direction. A few days later we were having a picnic in our backyard, and I went in to grab a bowl of cherries to serve for dessert. On the way back, I passed some sage we have growing in our sad little garden. A lightbulb went on in my head – wouldn’t the roasted cherries taste amazing with sage? I have a Blueberry Rosemary jam in the cookbook so that might have been on my mind. Just for a test, I grabbed a tiny sage leaf and ate it with a fresh cherry and it was delicious.

I was at a bit of a loss for where to go next. In meat cookery, the logical place you would use something like roasted cherries flavored with sage would be on game or pork. There aren’t that many vegetables that would accept a flavor like that willingly. Hey, if you want to eat them with Brussels sprouts, go ahead but maybe don’t invite me to dinner that night.

Well… then I was shopping at an Asian grocery to get ingredients for bun (which I demonstrated on New Day Northwest), and I spied King Oyster mushrooms (also known as French Horn mushrooms). I’m a huge fan of this fungus. They are big and dramatic, relatively inexpensive if you buy them at Korean markets especially, and have a good bite to them. Here is an item that, if well cooked to develop flavor, could handle that accompaniment.

I’d had lunch at Sitka and Spruce a couple of weeks ago and been reminded of a classic French technique where food is seared in a smoking hot saute pan, then the skillet is thrown in the oven to complete the cooking at a lower temperature. They did that with turnips and it is was terrific. I wanted to try that method with the mushrooms, and it worked really well. To finish the dish, I took the mushrooms out of the pan, deglazed it with red wine, added the sage, pre-roasted cherries and a bit of agave nectar and reduced it until it coated a spoon. I had intended to make this dish vegan, but at the last minute decided to add a nub of butter to the sauce for a bit of gloss and cling. You could certainly omit it.

I also played a bit with how to present the mushrooms. Whole was too big and, um, phallic. I thought of medallions, but then it looked like some godawful miniature pork loin from a magazine ad in 1987. All it would have needed was mashed potatoes and five green beans. So then I tried slicing at sort of random angles across the mushroom and standing up the pieces. That worked best (as you can see in the photo), and I garnished with what I had available – chive blossoms and tiny fresh oregano leaves.

There you go. That is I think pretty typical of how I arrive at new dishes, and probably not atypical of other folks who develop recipes. Rarely, if ever, does an idea spring up in a vacuum. Many “foodies” like Chantal Royer will say the best way to learn about your target cuisine is to travel to the place from which it originated. My most creative moments happen when I’m steeping myself in inspiration by eating at great restaurants, reading about food, pawing through amazing ingredients at good grocers and farmer’s markets, and just letting all of that stuff sort of marinate until an idea hits and it is time to play.

If I were to elaborate this dish further, my next step would probably be to smoke the mushrooms first. Or maybe the cherries. Hey.. over cherry wood! Uh oh, here we go again.

King Oyster Mushroom with Roasted Cherries and Sage
Vegetarian, gluten free and eminently veganizable
Serves 4 

  • 20 cherries, pitted (any variety you like)
  • 2 fresh sage leaves, rubbed and very thinly sliced
  • 4 large king oyster mushrooms (not to be confused with oyster mushrooms)
  • Vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup red wine (fruity, not too tannic)
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar
  • 1 tablespoon butter, cut into pieces (for vegan, use Earth Balance or thicken with xanthan gum)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • For garnish: Maldon (aka the world’s greatest salt) sea salt, herb flowers or leaves (I used tiny oregano leaves and pulled-apart chive blossoms
  1. Preheat oven to 375. Toss the cherries with the sage and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Roast until tender but not falling apart, about 15 minutes. Remove cherries from the oven and lower heat to 350.
  2. Place your largest oven-proof skillet over high heat. Add a generous amount of vegetable oil and sear the mushrooms, seasoning with a generous pinch of salt, and turning to brown as much of the surface area as possible.
  3. When the mushrooms surfaces are nicely browned, move the skillet to the oven and roast until fully tender when poked with a skewer, at least 15 minutes (depending on size).
  4. Remove the skillet from the oven, and remove the mushrooms from the pan. Pour off any excess oil. Put the pan back over medium heat. Add the wine and scrape (deglaze) the bottom of the pan to incorporate any delicious crispy bits. Whisk in the agave nectar, butter, pepper and cherries and cook until it will coat the back of a spoon. Taste and add salt as needed.
  5. To serve, divide the sauce among 4 warmed plates. Cut the mushrooms into segments with random angles and stand up the pieces. Arrange the mushrooms and cherries in a line, standing up some of the mushrooms segments. Garnish with the herbs and a few flakes of Maldon (aka the world’s greatest salt) .


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Posted by Michael Natkin on Monday, July 23rd, 2012 in Experiments, Sauces and Condiments.

27 Responses to “King Oyster Mushroom with Roasted Cherries and Sage – No, That Isn’t Meat – Thought Process”

  1. Reply
    July 23, 2012 at 7:34 am #

    I just came across your site this morning and I love it! As a fellow vegetarian, I’m really excited to try some of your recipes and meatless meals. This recipe in particular reminds me of a dish I had at a vegetarian restaurant in Sonoma a few months ago – and it was so interesting reading about where your inspiration behind this dish came from. Thanks for sharing and looking forward to trying your recipes soon!

  2. Reply
    July 23, 2012 at 10:07 am #

    Do not want to be at work now, would rather be running out right this minute to buy the ingredients to savor this delectable sounding treat, King Oyster Mushroom with Roasted Cherries and Sage. It has definitely made my list :).

    demand, demand, demand,

    vegetalienne biologique,

  3. Reply
    July 24, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    Deffo need a recipe for this mate, I imagine this elaborated into
    a dinner party main course maybe served with a mash for comfort
    and to mop up the juices.

    • Reply
      August 7, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

      Finally added the recipe!

  4. Reply
    July 24, 2012 at 5:10 pm #

    yes please, but do not know if i can find these-I live in the tropics so pls can i have an alternative!!!!

  5. Reply
    Dan Bartell
    July 25, 2012 at 1:58 am #

    Michael! It’s so amazing that you discovered roasted cherries. I was just doing a road/camp trip off the Oregon coast this past weekend and my lady brought along a metric f*ck ton of the tastiest rainier cherries from her parents tree. We balanced the stems off the edge of a stick and roasted them off the campfire. I loved the texture that was created, some how they “tightened up” and it resembled a texture of beef, and the flavor was so enriched. They maintained the tartness, while developing an incredible sweetness. I can’t wait to try it with a coffee rubbed jackfruit (really should update you on my jackfruit experiences) and roast cherry salsa. BTW: Incredible work on your book, I’m proud to have it in my “forever” section of my cooking library.

    • Reply
      July 25, 2012 at 8:08 am #

      Hey Dan – I love your method of cooking the cherries on the campfire, would love to hear about your jackfruit experiments, and I’m delighted to hear the book has made it into your permanent collection!

  6. Reply
    July 25, 2012 at 2:16 am #

    Wow, this looks absolutely fantastic. I would never have thought to combine cherries and mushrooms, but it looks amazing. I also love the sound of roasted cherries. I roast strawberries all the time, but never thought of roasted cherries. Fantastic.

  7. Reply
    July 25, 2012 at 2:37 am #

    Simply gorgeous dish! (Just saw it on foodgawker and it made me do a double-take) — Love how you shared your thought process for coming up with a new concept for a dish. I love King Oyster mushrooms fried or sliced and sauteed in some vegan butter and garlic, but will have to try your way — these mushrooms look so pork-like!

  8. Reply
    July 25, 2012 at 3:20 am #

    Yes, recipe, please! JUST discovered your blog, very readable and funny, and the pics are stunning. Can’t wait to read the whole blog. Thanks, but yes, please consider posting the recipe…

  9. Reply
    July 27, 2012 at 1:41 pm #

    Interesting post, Michael! It brings bloggers closer when you read their stories, and it makes a person behind the blog the real person, to whom you want to come and hang out with (virtually).
    King mushrooms are one of my favorite fungi, I cooked with it a lot when we lived in Seattle (I don’t see it here anywhere, well, I haven’t seen fennel in a year either, and I thought it was a common vegetable). Cherries add an interesting flavor, although my family wouldn’t eat it unless it’s one of those European sour cherries. My husband believes that fruits and sweet additives belong only in desserts. 🙂
    I cooked those mushrooms with black currant when my currants were ripe (I had one on a patio), was really good.

    • Reply
      July 28, 2012 at 10:01 pm #

      We get those sour cherries here for a few weeks each year, and man competition for them is tough!

  10. Reply
    August 1, 2012 at 8:33 am #

    If only I could have the recipe right now…I have the cherries, I have the mushrooms (always do) and I also have guests for dinner tonight that I know would love this dish…if only…

    • Reply
      August 7, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

      Ok, I finally added the recipe – sorry it wasn’t in time for your dinner :(.

  11. Reply
    August 13, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    Ok, I really want to do this ( and by the way thanks for making my TOFU better) there is no way here in the tropics of Australia I can get these mushrooms, what else could i use-thank you

    • Reply
      August 13, 2012 at 2:06 pm #

      Glad to hear about the tofu! Do you mean you can’t get any wild mushrooms at all, or just not these particular ones? I think this dish would be good with say lobster mushroom if you could find it. Not sure I can think of a non-mushroom vegetable that is going to love the savory cherry sauce. Maybe you can find something interesting and local that would work with it. If so – please send pictures!

  12. Reply
    August 13, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

    Thanks, I can get Oyster, Shitake and that’s about it-I live near the Great Barrier Reef…..I would so love to taste one of these mushrooms

    Shall I give this a go with the Asian Mushrooms I can get-and yes I will send pictures

    I have been Veggie for most of the last 17 years and cook every day ( last night did a Cauliflower and Broccoli Curry with Brazil nuts) and recently I got my meat eating Hubby to read J Safran Foer’s book ‘ Eating Animals’ and bar one moment of ‘I want meat ‘in Bali, he is now a Veggie too.

    Re the tofu- I followed your instructions, I then coat the tofu in harrissa, Chinese 5 spice, cornflour, salt and pepper and then add sesame seeds..lovely. I usually then dip them with soy and pickled ginger

    • Reply
      August 13, 2012 at 6:23 pm #

      Of the two, I’d choose the shiitake over the oyster mushroom, since I think they are a little more flavorful to stand up to the cherries. Let me know how it goes!

  13. Reply
    September 24, 2012 at 9:53 am #

    Hey Michael,

    I really love this idea; the roasted cherries combined with savory mushrooms is so unusual, but it’s making my mouth water! The vegan substitution notes are much appreciated, by the way.

    This post struck a note with me because it touches on a subject that I’ve struggled to explain to others: that you don’t need meat, or huge amounts of pasta, etc., to create and enjoy a stand-alone dish. This recipe is exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about! Bravo!

    Much thanks for the inspiration,


  14. Reply
    October 17, 2012 at 2:06 pm #

    As a grower of king oyster, which we call Trumpet Royale, I think this recipe is fabulous. Really inventive trio of ingredients that are properly synergistic. One suggestion, cut the mushrooms before cooking, More surface area will make for richer flavor. Easier too.

    • Reply
      October 17, 2012 at 2:11 pm #

      Hey Bob – nice to hear from you, and I have indeed seen King Oyster under the Trumpet Royale or King Trumpet names. In general I agree with you about cutting them smaller, but in this case the idea of the dish is really to have something carveable at the table. I’m a big fan of those shrooms, here’s another dish I use them in: link to .

  15. Reply
    May 19, 2014 at 8:20 am #

    How do you think this would be if I used tequila instead of red wine?

    • Reply
      May 19, 2014 at 12:10 pm #

      That might be interesting; i’ve never mixed cherries and tequila but it sounds like an appealing combo.

      • Reply
        May 21, 2014 at 7:18 pm #

        It was!!! And the leftovers were even better today.

        I sometimes roast butternut squash with cinnamon, fennel seed, and fresh sage (part of a Michael Chiarello recipe) and I think a few cherries added after the squash cubes are half done would be a nice addition to that mix.

        One way or another – I will be roasting cherries with sage again. Soon.

  16. Reply
    September 17, 2015 at 10:18 pm #


    Just came across this post via Twitter and am having flashbacks (good ones) to that event at Emmer and Rye. This recipe sounds like it would be a great with a killer Pinot Noir or Cru Beaujolais.



    • Reply
      April 5, 2016 at 1:40 pm #

      That was a good time!

  17. Reply
    April 5, 2016 at 12:56 pm #

    Vegan here, so no butter for me. I keep coconut oil in the fridge to substitute for cold butter. Just use less of it; it’s so very rich. King oyster mushrooms are among my favorites, and this looks grand! Thank you from a first time visitor.

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