Introducing: The Fungus of Flavor!
Until 20 years ago, whenever people heard the word "mushroom," they thought only of the small white mushrooms packaged in the supermarket produce section. Then TV chefs started showing us how to buy cremini mushrooms—very much like white mushrooms except they have darker skin. And then came the portabellas: You could sauté them, grill them, and even use them instead of meat in a sandwich. Do you know they are all the same type mushroom? They are all called agaricus bisporus.
When you're reading how to cook mushrooms, most cookbooks tell you to simply wipe them with a paper towel—but there’s no crime in washing them. Do it briefly
under cool water; letting them sit or soak in the water causes them to absorb it. Once they’ve had a quick rinse, cut off the bottoms of the stems and then wipe the whole thing with a paper towel. It’s entirely acceptable to peel off the top layer of mushroom “skin” if you see residual dirt or dark spots.
Now, the exception to that rule comes if you’re preparing a portabella—which is really just a big cremini—as the featured event in a vegetarian sandwich. For this you want to let the portabella soak up a flavorful marinade. Try something like soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce or even salad dressing. You can even try adding a little garlic. People usually talk about grilling them, but there are other options. Sauté them in a little cast iron skillet. Layer the portabella on the bun with some lettuce and tomato, plus whatever other toppings you like, and you’ve got quite a taste treat.
The very best thing to do, however, is to stuff
your mushrooms. Buy large white or cremini mushrooms or small portabellas and remove the stems—that’s where you’ll put your stuffing. How do you stuff them? Let me count the ways:
- Very finely dice the mushroom stems, some pepperoni, and cheese. Load the mixture into the place where the stems were removed and bake them for 20 minutes on a medium oven.
- Microwave bacon to extra crispy, and then crumble it. Combine it with sautéed onion. Or try it with cream cheese.
- Mix canned shredded crabmeat with some breadcrumbs, an egg, and some oregano and salt.
- If you’re “stuffing” a large portabella, you’re really going to layer the crabmeat mixture on top of the portabella slice, spoon on a little marinara sauce, and top it with mozzarella cheese. Slip it briefly under the broiler.
- Stuff them with drained canned diced tomatoes (I like the kind with the green chiles), cover them with your favorite cheese and bake.
- Try an oriental spin with a teriyaki seafood stuffing.
I don’t want to forget a few other mushroom varieties. Shiitake mushrooms are great to use in stir-fry. These popular spores not only look wild, they actually have a stronger taste, similar to wild mushrooms.
People also love to use the enoki mushrooms raw in salads after trimming the stems.. If you want to cook the mushrooms first, you can wrap them in a foil packet with some soy sauce or Italian dressing and bake or grill them for about 20 minutes. Unwrap and serve on a bed of greens for a flavorful salad.
For even more ideas on cooking mushrooms, check out this 10 Ways to Cook with Mushrooms post
on Taste for Adventure. Or try out some of these great recipes:
What is the most extraordinary or unusual mushroom you’ve ever tried?