11 Oct Special of the day: A Medley of Marvelous Mushrooms
Many varieties of mushrooms are at their peak in the fall and winter, so what better time to meet a medley of marvelous mushrooms than now? Several kinds of wild and cultivated mushrooms, both fresh and dried, can be found in your local grocery store.
Low in calories, rich in protein and a good source of vitamin B, C and D, mushrooms are delicious eaten fresh in salads, stuffed and baked, sautéed in butter, stirred into sauces, folded into omelets, tossed onto pizzas- or added to almost anything!
When shopping for fresh mushrooms, take time to select those that are firm and even-colored. Keep unwashed fresh mushrooms in a single layer topped with a damp paper towel in your refrigerator. Plan to use fresh mushrooms right away, as they won’t keep longer than about three days, refrigerated.
Dried mushrooms can be kept much longer, sealed in a plastic bag and stored in a cool, dry pantry. While white, shiitake and Portobello mushrooms are commonly stocked fresh in grocery produce departments, you can find a much wider selection of mushrooms there that have been dried.
Reconstituting dried mushrooms is as easy as soaking them in a hot liquid for a few minutes. Place mushrooms in small bowl and cover with hot water (or chicken, beef or vegetable stock for richer flavor). Let mushrooms sit until reconstituted, about 15 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and pat dry with paper towel. When using dried mushrooms in a recipe, keep in mind that the flavor of dried mushrooms will be more concentrated than when they were fresh and adjust the amount of mushrooms you use accordingly. As a general rule, 2 ounces of dried mushrooms will yield about 1 pound of reconstituted mushrooms.
In the interest of encouraging readers to expand their mushroom-buying repertoire, I gathered some of the most readily-available varieties at the market and jotted down some specifics on each type.
Your Meet-the-Mushrooms Guide:
- Morel mushroom– an edible wild mushroom with a honey-combed cone-shaped cap. Morels have a nutty, earthy flavor and work well in light cream sauces, pastas and egg dishes. Morels must be cooked before eating. Morels emerge in early spring often in areas of land that have been burned.
- Oyster mushroom– a lightly colored fan-shaped mushroom. Oyster mushrooms have an anise-like scent and mild oyster flavor. Oyster mushrooms go nicely in stir-fries and casseroles and when cooked with chicken or fish.
- Porcini mushroom– a richly-flavored mushroom with reddish brown flesh. Porcinis are often used in soups, sauces and stuffings.
- Portobello mushroom- a large, dark brown Italian mushroom with a cap that can be up to 5 inches in diameter. Portobellos are great grilled or broiled. Their meaty texture and massive size makes them good seasoned and grilled for a vegetarian sandwich filling.
- Shiitake mushroom– a pale brown Asian mushroom whose cap measures between 2 and 4 inches. Tough, fibrous stems are often discarded and not eaten. Flesh from the rich smoky-flavored caps is delicious sautéed and used in soups, pastas, stir-fries and casseroles
- Straw mushroom– a mild, smooth-textured Asian mushroom with an exotic flavor. Grown on decomposing rice straw stacks in Southeast Asia, they are also called Paddy Straw Mushrooms and often used in many different Asian recipes.
- Wild mushrooms– marinated in balsamic vinegar, these mouth-watering mushrooms make for an instant appetizer served over thinly sliced toasted baguette slices drizzled with truffle oil and sprinkled with sea salt. Marinated wild mushrooms would also work well on an antipasto platter with assorted Italian meats and cheeses.
Make some new mushroom friends with this week’s Special of the day: A Medley of Marvelous Mushrooms and recipes for Wild Mushroom Bruschetta and Morel Mushroom Wine Sauce. Happy cooking!
Recipes and food photography by Sydne George.
Wild Mushroom Bruschetta
(serves 8 or more as an appetizer)
1 bakery baguette
2 tbsp. butter
1 clove garlic, minced
10.9-ounce jar Wild Mushrooms in Balsamic Vinegar (canned vegetable aisle, top shelf, at Albertsons)
Additional balsamic vinegar for drizzling
Truffle oil for drizzling
Fresh baby basil leaves, for garnish
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt butter in small bowl in microwave. Add minced garlic and stir to combine. Slice baguette into thin slices. Arrange on baking sheet. Brush baguette slices with garlic butter. Toast baguette slices in preheated oven until golden on edges. Remove from oven. Using slotted spoon, spoon wild mushrooms over toasted baguette slices. Lightly drizzle bruschetta with balsamic vinegar and truffle oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Garnish with fresh baby basil leaves.
Morel Mushroom Wine Sauce
(makes enough sauce to serve over 4 grilled steaks)
½ pound morel mushrooms (I found dried morels at Albertsons and reconstituted them in beef stock. Remove from stock with slotted spoon and dry on paper towel before adding to sauce.)
3 tbsp. real butter
2 tbsp. green onions, thinly sliced
¾ cup Cabernet Sauvignon (or other dry red wine)
2 tbsp. real butter
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Slice morel mushrooms lengthwise and set aside. In a medium sauté pan, melt butter over medium high heat. Sauté green onions and sliced morels briefly. Remove onions and mushrooms from pan with slotted spoon and set aside. Add wine and simmer gently until thickened. When ready to serve, whisk in additional 2 tbsp. butter until smooth. Season with Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Add sautéed morels and green onions. Serve over grilled steaks.
Sydne George is a food journalist specializing in recipe development, food writing and food photography. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . Sydne’s recipes from “Special of the day” are archived at http://sydnegeorge.com/blog/.