7 Culinary Mushrooms
The standard, white button mushroom has been available in grocery stores for a long time, and it is rare to find a person who has never tried them. Then came the exotic mushrooms.
The oyster mushroom was the first mushroom to hit the market in the mid 80's, after that came the spindly white enoki, the meaty shiitake, the mammoth portobello, and the delicate chanterelle.
Clever cooks quickly learned that replacing the ubiquitous button mushroom with one of its uncommon cousins added instant panache to a meal. Bistros, cafes and trattorias have added these mushroom to their dishes and the celebrated truffle is no longer holding center stage.
The hearty porcini is an unpretentious and versatile mushroom, poviding the earthy foundation for a Tuscan risotto. A tart can be turned into a culinary work of art just by adding the delicate chanterelle. Stuffed portobello's can stand on their own as an appetizer or a vegetarian main course.
Before, these mushroom were mostly available from greengrocers and gourmands. Today, supermarkets sell them in sampler packages, so consumers can taste the different varieties.
Living in a small area, these sampler packages have only recently hit the shelves in our local supermarket. I have loved mushrooms my entire life, but have been wary of trying different ones than the standard button mushroom, that I am used to. So, I decided to pick up a sampler pack and find out more about these mushrooms.
Keeping for one week, these common white mushrooms were originally brown. Today they can be found in both the white variety and the brown variety, depending on what you wish to use them for. Flavorful, versatile and readily available, they will keep for at least one week.
Cleaning - Brush with a mushroom brush or rub gently with a damp paper towel. Can be washed under running water, but do it quickly, because they will soak up the water quickly.
Cooking - Add to dishes at any time you wish. Towards the end if you like them lightly cooked or at the beginning if you want more mushroom flavor. Great for stew, soups, stir-frys, omlettes and just about any other dish you can think of to add mushrooms to. I love them raw in salads.
Cremini Mushrooms aka Portobello Mushrooms
Cremini mushrooms are also known as Champignon de Paris. This brown mushroom has a more intense and ealthy flavor than its cousin, the button mushroom.
Portobello mushrooms are actually oversized cremini mushrooms, and they are versatile and reasonably priced. Grill, it stuff it, roast it or slice it into pastas and ragouts. Has a meaty flavor and chewy texture.
Cleaning - The stems are quite tough, these are usually removed and can be discarded or saved for soup stock. Then the gills are removed by gently scaping the inside of the mushroom with a spoon. The mushroom are then wiped down with a damp paper towel and are ready to use.
Cooking - Grill it, stuff it, roast it or slice it into pastas and ragouts, this mushroom has a meaty flavor and chewy texture. Can be used in any recipe that calls for mushrooms.
Oyster mushrooms are one of the easiest to grow. This lobed, delicately flavored mushroom ranges in color from cream to grey-brown. Provides an enriched background flavor to a dish.
Cleaning - The stems are tough, so these are usually discarded after being cut off. The most common method of cleaning them is just wiping with a paper towel. They are quite moist, so if you wish to rinse under water, try to do it quickly and gently shake off excess as soon as you are done. They can also be gently pressed between paper towels to remove any excess liquid.
Cooking - Oyster mushrooms come dried and fresh. Dried mushrooms can just be added to the dish, they will rehydrate themselves in the sauce. Also great for stir-fried dishes, they are best when added at the last stage of cooking to get the best flavor. Simply tear these mushrooms in desired pieces and add to your wok. These mushrooms are wonderful if you heat them briefly in butter or olive oil, and then add them to a light cream sauce. Pour this sauce over fillets of sole or chicken breats. If you are able to find large oyster mushrooms (some are more than 1 inch thick), these are wonderful dipped into slightly beaten eggs, rolled in bread crumbs and fried lightly in butter.
The Japaneses Enokitake
Resembling a bean sprout, this mushroom is found mostly in Japan, growing on tree trunks, roots and branches. They also grow wild in North America in the fall and winter. With an aroma that is slightly fruity and mild in taste, these little mushrooms were made famous in Asia, where they feature prominently in many Asian dishes. Also called Enoki and sometimes Velvet Shank.
Cleaning - Enoki mushrooms can be found canned, dried or fresh. If you are using canned mushrooms, drain and add them at the end of cooking. If you are using dried mushrooms, add them about 3/4 way through cooking so they have a chance to rehydrate. When using fresh mushrooms wash these mushroom right before you are going to use them.
Cooking - This mushroom is ideal for adding raw to salads or at the last minute in Japanese-style clear soups.
- Choose mushrooms that are moist and plump, without soft, discolored spots. A fresh mushroom smells like damp earth.
- Store mushrooms in a paper bag in the refrigerator. Or on a try with a moist paper towel covering them. A plastic bag allows water to condense, creating soggy mushrooms.
- Trim stem ends just before using. With portobellos, remove the tough stem and save it for stock or soup.
- Wash mushrooms only when required. Otherwise, clean gently with a mushroom brush, or wipe with a damp cloth.
- To dry your mushrooms, thinly slice and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Keep in a warm, airy place for two days or until completely dry.
- Most mushrooms do not need to be rehydrated, just add them to your dish and continue cooking as your normally would.
- Always store dried mushrooms in an airtight jar, in a dark place.
Do you pick mushrooms to eat?
Truffles are at the top of the most prized and expensive mushroom. With only a few varieties that are edible, this sought after mushrooms grows underground.
Throughout history, pigs have been trained to find the truffles and dogs have been known to find them too.
Finding fresh truffles is next to impossible in stores, but you can find them frozen and canned. There is also oil and salt that can be used to add their distinctive earthy flavor to your meals.
Cleaning - If you are lucky enough to have fresh truffles, remove any soil from them before eating. They must be washed with water and brushed, as you won't be peeling them. Dry them carefully with a paper towel. Frozen or canned, use according to packaging instructions.
Cooking- Fresh truffles are scraped or grated onto food. Add them to sauces and soups just before eating. They are wonderful with chicken, fish, souffles, omelettes, pasta, and rice. If you store fresh truffles in the refrigerator with eggs or rice, the flavor can penetrate through the eggshell and flavor the rice nicely. They also add a wonderful flavor to cream and cheese sauces. Make your roasted chicken fantastic by inserting thin wedges under the skin. Refrigerate overnight before roasting.
I have picked morels for years. Although most commonly found the first five years after a forest fire, these delicate, nutty flavored mushrooms also grow under young popular trees.
If you get them dried you may find that they have a more intense, smoky quality. Probably a side effect of coming up in the blackened remains of forest fires.
Groups of people travel across North America, in search of last years forest fires, to make their living picking these mushrooms.
Cleaning - I usually get my morels fresh in the spring. If they are really fresh, just run them under briefly under running water. If they are larger and a little older, soak them for about 10 minutes in salt water to draw out and kill any bugs they may have.
Cooking - Morels are a rare and costly culinary mushroom with a honeycombed cap that absorbs sauces. Add them fresh or dried to soups, stews, stir-fry and cream based sauces. I like them cut up and fried in butter with a little garlic just on their own.
A word of caution: If you are out picking morels in the spring, be wary of the false morel, these are poisonous and can cause stomach upset. They are not good to eat. Most common identification trait is the long stem that they grow from and the irregular shaped heads. Real morels have a short almost non-existent stem.
These mushrooms are found during the fall rains, along the side of a dirt road They are best picked when smaller, with no purple or black color along the bottom of the mushroom. Shaggy on the outside, these are one of my favorite mushrooms. I have looked for, and picked shaggy manes every chance I get throughout my life.
Cleaning - Check your mushroom over and make sure there is no discoloring at the bottom. If there is, simply cut off the area that isn't white. Cleaning shaggy manes is easy, but time consuming. Start at the bottom of the mushroom with a mushroom brush or a toothbrush (my mom used to just use a knife) and brush or scrape upwards towards the top, to remove the outside shaggy layer.
Cooking - Shaggy Manes are wonderful breaded with cracker crumbs and lightly fried in butter and garlic. They are great with steak. When adding to soups and stew, make sure you add them at the end, as they do break down the longer they are cooked.
A word of caution: When picking shaggy manes, do not confuse them with the springtime growing inky mushroom. While good to eat, these smooth surfaced, white mushrooms block your bodies ability to metabolize alcohol, which can be fatal if you drink after eating them.
Watch Shaggy Manes Grow
Have you tried all of the mushrooms above?
© 2013 Eco-Lhee