(May 17, 2019) If one was asked to describe and define a mushroom, how would you respond?
First and foremost, you must make it perfectly clear that mushrooms are not plants or vegetables but an edible fungus.
If coherence is to flourish, one might inquire, “What is a fungus?”
Sometimes answers can be complicated, so for the sake of clarity I went to Ducksters, an educational site for children and found a simple answer.
Fungi are a group of living organisms which are classified in their own kingdom. In other words, they are not animals, plants, or bacteria, but something in between and very unique.
As we move on, the actual word “mushroom” applies to any fungus of the same general shape as a classic mushroom. In other words, they must have a round cap and stalk.
However, exceptions are understood and part of the norm.
Some mushrooms grow out of the side of a tree trunk and have almost no stalk. The oyster fungus, often called the oyster mushroom, has a very short, offset stem and is a perfect example of this.
The mysterious mushroom is one of the most divisive and delectable ingredients for the pickings. You are either in love or detest the flavorful fungi, indecisiveness is not on this menu of partiality.
Preparation may be the biggest reason that mushrooms get a bad rap. You have to know how to cook mushrooms so you can coax the wonderful aromas and textures that make them so special. Following are a few tips for fanatics and skeptics alike.
Mushrooms, especially wild mushrooms, are like sponges: they soak up moisture. If you wash them, they will get waterlogged. Instead, clean them with a damp paper towel.
Yes, it is annoying and time consuming to clean all those little crevices by hand, but the results are well worth the extra effort.
Mushrooms are packed with water. It is imperative to cook them slowly so the natural water will seep out. If you keep the heat low, the mushrooms will simmer in their own liquid, which ultimately brings out their true essence.
Roasting is another option. Again, the heat acts as a conductor and forces the moisture out. The grand finale is a gorgeous brown and delectable consistency that cannot be beat.
Do not overcrowd the pan when sautéing mushrooms. You want enough room for their liquid to evaporate.
If you pack them in the pan, they will steam which defeats the whole purpose and philosophy of how to properly cook mushrooms.
Portobellos are a natural encasing for stuffing. But it is important to remove the dark brown gills underneath the cap. They are not attractive and will affect the taste and color of your dish. Simply use a spoon to scrape them out.
In closing, the secret to cooking mushrooms is to allow their distinctive umami flavor to shine. Added ingredients must be carefully chosen so they enhance and not compete with the actual mushroom.
Sautéed wild mushrooms with fresh herbs is easy to make and a wonder addition to any protein.
The lemon juice adds freshness to the earthiness of the mushrooms. Chicken stock gives the dish depth of flavor and smooths out the acidity of the lemon juice.
Most recipes call for fresh garlic, but I prefer garlic powder. The garlic powder permeates the mushrooms more evenly and makes for a more cohesive dish.
Take advantage of the spring and the opportunity to upscale your menu. Sautéed wild mushrooms with fresh herbs is a refreshing and delicious side that is sure to wow your guests.
Sautéed Wild Mushrooms with Fresh Herbs
2 pounds mixed wild mushrooms (such as cremini, shiitake, porcini, oyster and portobello)
¼ cup good quality olive oil
¼ cup chicken stock
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 teaspoons garlic powder
kosher salt to taste
few splashes fresh lemon juice
fresh herbs (such as thyme, Thai basil, oregano, or rosemary)
1. Brush the caps of each mushroom with a wet paper towel. Remove the stems and freeze for future stock. Slice according to personal preference.
2. Heat the olive oil, chicken stock and butter in a large Dutch oven or saucepan. Add the remaining ingredients except for the lemon juice and herbs and cook over medium heat for 8 minutes, or until they are tender and begin to release their juices, stirring often.
3. Add lemon juice and fresh herbs and cook for another two minutes. Sprinkle a dusting of salt and serve warm.
Secret Ingredient – Opinion. “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”
– Daniel Patrick Moynihan