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ALL ABOUT MUSHROOMS

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September is officially deemed as National Mushroom Month and the advent of Fall and Winter also bring to mind lots of braised dishes that have mushrooms as an ingredient.  Mushrooms in general serve as a delicious savory ingredient at the same time supplying a great deal of nutrition - potassium, essential B-vitamins and selenium, a powerful antioxidant.

I've discovered that roasting mushrooms in a hot oven completely changes them into the most intensely flavorful morsel of food you will ever eat.   My favorite mushrooms to roast are Chanterelle and Shiitake - just remove/discard the stems;  cut Shiitake caps in half or leave whole if they are small; leave Chanterelle whole unless they are very large - then cut in half and simply coat raw mushrooms with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper and finely chopped fresh rosemary.  Place prepared mushrooms on a cookie sheet and roast in a preheated 400 degree F. oven for approximately 20 - 30 minutes.  The mushrooms will become slightly shriveled.  I like to serve roasted mushrooms alongside a perfectly grilled medium-rare rib-eye steak.

Here are some other ideas for roasted mushrooms:

  • Add roughly chopped roasted mushrooms to stews or chili at the end of cooking, so they will maintain their "meat-like" texture
  • Finely chop roasted mushrooms in a food processor until the texture resembles ground beef. Sauté the mushrooms with herbs and use as a stuffing for hollowed-out tomatoes, eggplant or zucchini and then sprinkle the tops with bread crumbs, drizzle with olive oil  and bake until the vegetables are cooked.
  • Combine roasted mushroom chunks with chunks of cooked potato in a buttered gratin dish. Sprinkle with chopped fresh rosemary and your favorite grated cheese.  Sprinkle fresh bread crumbs that have been coated with melted butter or olive oil.  Bake gratin dish for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Of all the methods used to cook mushrooms, the most popular technique by far, is to sauté them. Sautéing mushrooms in a hot skillet, browns the mushrooms and releases most of their liquid which is evaporated, resulting in a denser texture and concentrated mushroom flavor. A basic mushroom sauté follows:

Sautéed Mushrooms with Garlic & Herbs

½ pound Any variety of mushroom cleaned with a damp paper towel
¼ cup  extra virgin olive oil
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, coarsely chopped
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon black pepper coarsely ground

Slice mushrooms as desired.  Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium heat; then add the olive oil and butter.  when the butter has melted, add mushrooms.  Toss to coat mushroom slices with oil.  Cover pan and let mushrooms release their moisture for about 3 - 5 minutes.  Uncover, add remaining ingredients and mix well.  Continue to cook mushrooms until most of the moisture has evaporated.  Taste for seasoning and adjust with more salt or pepper if desired.  Yield: 2 or 3 side portions.   Note:  This mixture can also be used as a topping for bruschetta (toasted slices of an Italian bread, rubbed with garlic and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.)

Mushroom "Caviar"

2 tablespoons

olive oil

2 tablespoons

butter

1 medium

onion, finely minced

1 pound

mushrooms finely minced (single or mixed variety - such as cremini and chanterelle)

2 tablespoons

fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons

Cognac

2 sprigs

of thyme leaves, minced

 

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons

sour cream

Heat oil and butter in a skillet until the butter melts. Add the onion, tossing to coat evenly. over the pan and cook slowly until the onion is tender.

Add the finely minced mushrooms and stir over medium heat until they begin to release their juices. Add the lemon juice, Cognac, thyme, salt and pepper. Increase the heat.  Continue stirring until all the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are darkened, but not too browned. Remove from the heat and transfer to a mixing bowl. Stir in the sour cream. Let cool and cover the bowl and refrigerate for an hour.  Serve lightly chilled or at room temperature.  Spread on toasted slices of a baguette, garnish with a touch of minced parsley.

Recipe adapted from "Judy Gorman's Vegetable Cookbook" winner of the IACP cook book award category of Fruits & Vegetables in 1987.  Note: out of print but copies are available on Amazon.

Anatomy of Mushrooms

Although we may think of mushrooms as a vegetable or fruit, they really are not. They belong to the fungi plant group as does yeast, bread mold and truffles. It wasn't until the 18th-century in France that commercial mushroom growing began. The original mushroom "farms" were, and still are, located in limestone quarries near Paris -- the reason why White mushrooms have long been called "Champignon de Paris" by French-trained chefs.

The nation's mushroom consumption now exceeds three-quarters of a billion pounds per year. Pennsylvania and California lead in mushroom growing, but 22 other states now add significantly to mushroom availability year-round and nationwide. Much of that consumption is of the Agaricus, commonly known as the White Button mushroom. But in recent years, consumer demand along with the home cooks' growing interest in gourmet and ethnic cuisines, has brought exotic mushroom varieties to the marketplace; specialty food stores, gourmet food warehouses, and upscale supermarkets plus the ever-growing number of farmers' markets now all sell many different varieties of mushrooms.  Great cooks know that mushrooms are versatile and have a tremendous creative potential to turn even the most ordinary foods like scrambled eggs, into a scrumptious dish.

Agaricus (White Button)

Most widely available fresh mushroom variety with a smooth round cap, closed veils) and short stem. Ranging in color from creamy white to beige in sizes from small to jumbo.

Flavor: Pleasantly mild and woodsy when eaten raw; delicately flavored when cooked. Mature Agaricus (open veils and darkened caps) have a richer, deeper taste.

Handling: Refrigerate in paper bag. Ideal storage temperatures is between 34 - 38 degrees F.

Suggested Uses: Extremely versatile in any recipe calling for mushrooms. Use raw in salads or part of a crudité platter; sautéed, braised or grilled on kebabs; Use in cream sauces, soups, and fish or poultry stuffing.

Crimini (Italian Brown, Agaricus bisporus)

Long favored by European cooks, the Crimini is closely related to and similar in appearance to the Agaricus. Look for a naturally dark cap which ranges in color from light tan to rich brown.

Flavor: deeper, denser, earthier flavor than fresh white buttons.

Handling: Refrigerate in paper bag. Ideal storage temperatures is between 34 - 38 degrees F.

Suggested Uses: Can be used in recipes specifying white button mushrooms or in combination with white buttons to add variety. Use in risotto, egg dishes and pasta sauces.

Shiitake (Oak, Chinese or Black Forest), Lentinus edodes)

Named for the Japanese shii tree on which they once grew wild, shiitakes range in color from tan to dark brown umbrella-shaped caps, wide open veils and tan gills. Stems are woody (unless mushrooms are very young) so discard before cooking.

Flavor: rich and woodsy; meaty texture when cooked.

Handling: Refrigerate in paper bag. Ideal storage temperatures is between 34 - 38 degrees F.

Suggested Uses: Adapts well to most cooking techniques, especially roasted, sautéed, broiled or stir-fried. Adapts well to Asian ingredients such as fresh ginger and shoyu (soy sauce).

Enoki

 These fragile mushrooms have very small caps with long slender stems and are grown in clusters.

Flavor: mild, light and slightly crunchy.

Handling: Clusters come prepackaged. Store as is in refrigerator until ready to open and use.

Suggested Uses: Best eaten raw in composed salads and on sandwiches or as a garnish for Asian dishes and soups.

Oyster (Pleurotus ostreatus)

Fluted and graceful, caps resemble their unique shape of oyster shells. Colors range in soft hues from gray to tan to off-white.  Varieties include King oyster, Blue oyster, Wild oyster, Golden oyster.

*Handling: Refrigerate in paper bag. Ideal storage temperatures is between 34 - 38 degrees F.

Flavor: delicate mild mushroom flavor when cooked, but can be eaten raw. Velvety texture.

Suggested Uses: As a substitute for white mushrooms or in combination with them in sautés, or as a final addition to soups. Do not brown when cooking; simply gently heat in butter and add to light pasta dishes and seafood.

Portabella (a.k.a. Portobello)


Impressively large and the hardiest of cultivated mushrooms with flat caps and open veils; up to six inches in diameter; grown up relative of the Agaricus and Crimini.

Handling: Refrigerate in paper bag. Ideal storage temperatures is between 34 - 38 degrees F.

Flavor: Deep, meaty flavor with substantial texture, resulting from their longer growing period.

Suggested Uses: Brushed with olive oil, and grilled on both sides for a Mushroom "burger".  They can also be sliced and sautéed, braised and oven-roasted.
 

Maitake (Hen of the Woods, Grifola frondosa)

Maitake mushrooms look like a cluster of dark fronds with a firm textured base. 

Handling: Refrigerate in paper bag. Ideal storage temperatures is between 34 - 38 degrees F.

Flavor: They have a distinctive aroma with a rich woodsy flavor.

Suggested Uses: Sautéed in butter as a side dish. Add to stews and soups.

Morel (Morchella Esculentia)

Morels have short, thick, hollow stems, topped with a sponge-like pointed cap resembling honeycombs.

Handling: Refrigerate in paper bag. Ideal storage temperatures is between 34 - 38 degrees F. Morels need to be cleaned well as dirt can accumulate in the honeycomb-like caps.

Flavor: They have a distinctive nut-like flavor and woodsy fragrance.

Suggested Uses: Sautéed in butter as a side dish; small ones are added to sauces and soups; larger morels can be stuffed with sausage or crabmeat as an appetizer; also good in stews.

 

Chanterelle (Cantherellus Cibarius)


Handling: Just as with Morels, Chanterelles must be thoroughly cleaned as the crevices in the ap fold tightly and it can be difficult to clean.  You may have to slice the Chanterelle and even use a small nylon brush to whisk away any debris. As with all mushrooms, don't soak in water - but quickly rinsing under a running tap or a quick dip in a bowl of water and then immediately drying on paper towels  is best.  Store in waxed paper or brown paper bag in the refrigerator.

Flavor:  Chanterelles have a peach-like aroma.  Not a favorite eaten raw and can even be upsetting to some.  Best flavor is appreciated when thoroughly cooked/sautéed in butter of course!

Suggested Uses:  Aside from a simple sauté in butter, these aromatic mushrooms can be used in whatever mushroom recipe you like.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
           
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