The World of Mushrooms

Mushrooms, with their rich flavor and hearty texture, make meat-free dishes more substantial.

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WAYS TO COOK MUSHROOMS

While you can safely eat store bought raw mushrooms, provided they’ve been cleaned, many people don’t have a taste for them. The most popular cooking methods for mushrooms are frying and grilling. Little else is needed besides butter (or olive oil) and salt, since the goal is to let the flavor of the mushrooms shine through. Remember that mushrooms should only be cooked until tender and slightly golden and, be sure not to overcrowd the pan, when it comes to sauteing or they will steam instead. 

COMMON VARIETIES

Common in Italian cooking, portobello mushrooms are dense and lend a rich flavor to sauces and pastas. This variety is commonly used as a meat substitute and they are sturdy enough to withstand grilling and stuffing. You can even use their wide flat cap as a burger bun-substitute. 

Cremini mushrooms, also known as baby bellas or brown mushrooms, are simply young portobellos. Creminis can be used interchangeably with white button mushrooms, but if you have a choice between the two, go with creminis, since they are more flavorful. When buying this variety, be sure to look under the cap to check that the gills are covered. This ensures that they’re fresh. 

Shiitake mushrooms are native to East Asia and are easily identified by their umbrella-shaped caps, which curl slightly. Fresh shiitakes have a subtle woodsy flavor and aroma, but dried ones are more intense. Shiitakes tend to taste best when they are fried and be sure to remove their stems, since they’re woody. Other popular cooking mushrooms are oyster, commonly found in Japanese and Chinese fare like stir-fries, and porcini, which are reddish-brown in color and appreciated for their smooth texture and rich flavor. 

Shiitakes tend to taste best when they are fried and be sure to remove their stems, since they’re woody.

PAIRINGS

Pastas, soups and stews, like Beef Bourguignon, often call for mushrooms. They are also an excellent addition to omelettes, fried rice, or served as a side for steak. Mushrooms and chicken are another common pairing, in dishes like Chicken Marsala, an Italian wine-based recipe. 

Mushrooms and herbs like thyme, tarragon, rosemary and basil pair well together and a few of mushroom’s most complimentary vegetables are asparagus, leeks and fennel. Of course, garlic and mushrooms are a match made in heaven! 

MUSHROOM MYTHS

A common myth is that you should avoid washing mushrooms to prevent them soaking up additional moisture. This is not always the case. If they’re whole and going to be cooked, go ahead and rinse them with cold water, especially dirt-prone varieties like morels. The amount of water they absorb is miniscule and will mostly stay on the surface. Even Julia Child washed mushrooms, making sure to dry them before cooking them. Just make sure you wait to rinse them until you are ready to cook or they will get slimy. If you’re serving raw mushrooms, rinsing them with water will cause discoloration so it’s recommended to scrub them with a dry toothbrush or damp paper towel instead. 

Sure, some mushrooms have woody stems that should be discarded but, in the case of button and portobello, you can easily use the stems to make a mushroom paste, filling or even a soup. Think outside the box before you toss those scraps! 

Even Julia Child washed mushrooms, making sure to dry them before cooking them.

HEALTH BENEFITS

A common myth is that you should avoid washing mushrooms to prevent them soaking up additional moisture. This is not always the case. If they’re whole and going to be cooked, go ahead and rinse them with cold water, especially dirt-prone varieties like morels. The amount of water they absorb is miniscule and will mostly stay on the surface. Even Julia Child washed mushrooms, making sure to dry them before cooking them. Just make sure you wait to rinse them until you are ready to cook or they will get slimy. If you’re serving raw mushrooms, rinsing them with water will cause discoloration so it’s recommended to scrub them with a dry toothbrush or damp paper towel instead. 

Sure, some mushrooms have woody stems that should be discarded but, in the case of button and portobello, you can easily use the stems to make a mushroom paste, filling or even a soup. Think outside the box before you toss those scraps!