Even common mushroom favorites lend texture and woodsy, nutty, umami and sweet flavors to dishes.
By Amy Traverso
Sep 29 2016
Mushrooms | In SeasonPhoto Credit : istock/ Olha Afanasieva
The world of mushrooms is so vast and daunting that I want to preface this column by setting some parameters: While the world of edible wild-mushrooms is fascinating and rewarding (gustatorily, not to mention monetarily, if you know what you’re doing), for practicality’s sake, we are limiting our discussion to the varieties most commonly available in your typical supermarket. That means button, portobello, cremini (which are actually immature portobellos), shiitake, oyster, and the like. They may lack the cachet of rare and pricier chanterelles or morels, but you can coax a tremendous amount of flavor out of some of these commoners sautéed in some butter with minced shallots or garlic.
Dip your toes into the world of mycology and you can find yourself diving deep into fascinating factoids. Fungi are the planets great recyclers, decomposing vegetable matter into soil with rabid efficiency. They represent their own kingdom on the evolutionary tree, having split from animals long after the vegetable kingdom branched out, and scientists are studying their antibacterial and antiviral qualities in search of the next generation of Penicillin.
But let’s not stray too far from the food. Edible mushrooms lend texture and woodsy, nutty, umami and even sweet flavors to dishes (try adding candy cap oil to spaghetti sauce, if you can find it). Vegetarians love the meaty portobello as a burger alternative, and button mushrooms serve as an edible container for all kinds of delicious stuffings. Mushrooms are high in fiber and vitamins and fat-free (before cooking).
As a general rule, it’s best to sauté mushrooms on high heat with some butter and salt. This helps them release excess moisture and speeds up the browning process. And it’s that browned, caramelized flavor that really shines in all of the following dishes.
Baked Eggs and Mushrooms in Toast Cups
Baked Herb Omelet with Feta & Mushrooms
Butternut-Citrus Soup with Bay Scallops & Mushrooms
Winter-Greens Pie with Mushrooms, Caramelized Shallots & Feta Winter greens such as kale, chard, and spinach (your choice) are packed with fiber and feel-good vitamins, yet taste rich and comforting when paired with mushrooms, sweet caramelized shallots, creamy feta, and toasted walnuts.
Mushrooms with Sour Cream
Mushroom, Leek & Potato Soup
Beef, Mushroom, and Guinness Pie