Cooking With Mushrooms

A Way to Add Flavor or Eaten on Their Own

Cooking With Mushrooms

A Way to Add Flavor or Eaten on Their Own

Mushrooms have always been intimidating to me.  Maybe it's because of their hallucinogenic rock and roll legacy, or the chance that if chosen without skill, a wild one can kill you.  Mostly I think it's due to their sculptural, fragile appearance and the knowledge that they've been grown so close to the ground, sometimes in the rot of trees and other plants.   Not quite the romance of snipping an apple off a branch.

But mushrooms are one of our most flavorful and versatile foods.  They can be an accent, an addition, a flavoring, or the main event.  Large, meaty portobellos can be grilled to replace a steak.  A small handful of pricey dried porcini can be brought back to life with warm water to add rich, deep flavor to a stew or pot roast.  White, crisp, common button mushrooms can be sliced and eaten raw in salads, or diced fine to become the basis of a sophisticated and rich duxelles to flavor parchment-cooked fish.  A sauté of shiitake, crimini and oyster mushrooms can become a complement to a pasta or risotto or a quickly cooked veal scallopine.

Although I associate mushrooms with the fall, in fact they are a year-round food.  At least the cultivated varieties are, most of which are grown in nearby Pennsylvania.  Wild mushrooms are gathered during the more temperate months, especially the spring and the fall, and should be cooked before eating.

Techniques for Handling, Cleaning and Cooking

We've added a basic mushroom primer to our Advice & Ideas section at The City Cook but here are a few extra tips that can help you cook them more successfully.

 

Savory Versatility

If you do a search for mushrooms on any of the major recipe web sites (Epicurious, Food & Wine, Martha Stewart.com, Food TV), literally hundreds of recipes will result.  Here are some of my favorite ways to cook with mushrooms.

 

Some of our Greenmarkets, including Union Square on Saturdays, host local mushroom farmers.  In addition to their baskets of white, pristine button mushrooms, they offer exotic cultivated and wild varieties.  Every week is a surprise so visit early to see what they have brought.

If you've never cooked with mushrooms, perhaps this is the fall to try.  And if you've been a white mushroom conservative, maybe it's time for some diversity and going a little wild.

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