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never cooked with mushrooms--where to start??

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My husband and I recently returned from a wonderful vacation which included delicious meal after meal. As a vegetarian, many of mine included mushrooms--rich, savory mushrooms in pastas, risottos, soups, etc...or even just pan fried. It occurred to me that I should implement the fungi into my home cooking. But I have no clue where to start! Dried or fresh? Cremini, shiitaki, button, white? And what do I do with them once I've got them home?

Many many thanks in advance!

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  1. Mushrooms 101....

    Start with the white button mushrooms.
    When you get them home take them out of the package and store them in a brown paper bag in the fridge till you're ready to cook them.... within 3 days time at most.

    When you're going to cook them:
    Clean the mushrooms. I zshush them in a colander under running tepid water, drain, then blot dry. (There will be dissenting opinions.)
    Slice in half, if necessary, or quarter if large.
    Hot skillet... drizzle in some EVOO.
    Dump mushrooms in and stir-fry.
    In the meantime have some white wine, chopped garlic and parsley at the ready. When the mushrooms have given up their juice and reabsorbed it, toss in the garlic and fry for a few minutes till fragrant. Add salt & pepper. Add some wine and reduce. Add the parsley. Serve.

    11 Replies
    1. re: Gio

      A little bleu cheese over it at the end is nice also.

      And mushroom risotto is just about my favorite thing to eat.

      1. re: Gio

        I dissent, Gio. I just wipe them down with a damp paper towel. My mom used to make us peel them! Not necessary, I say! And use lots of salt when you saute them to release all that water!

        1. re: Phurstluv

          I don't even wipe them off. I only have access to commercially grown so they're clean.

          1. re: c oliver

            I assume the ones I buy in large containers at costco and other retail markets are commerically grown as well, but it seems I do need to wipe most down, at least the criminis and portabellinis, as there is some dirt clumps clinging, in my experience. And when stored properly, in a ventilated bag or even their own container, they keep for longer than 3 days.

          2. re: Phurstluv

            Agree with the wipedown. Trim the tips of the stems if they're tough. I like mine sliced. Then into a medium-hot non-stick *dry* pan and sprinkle with some salt. Toss/stir until they've released most of their moisture and are getting some browning and then add the oil. That really intensifies the flavor and keeps the texture meaty.

            1. re: weezycom

              I use lots of butter or a mix of butter and oil sometimes, not a dry pan. And they seem pretty meaty to me. I want them to soak in some of the hot, flavorful fat.

              1. re: Phurstluv

                I picked up the tip from cooking off the moisture first from ATK -- they got more of the butter/olive oil flavor when that was added later, after the mushrooms had let go a lot of their water. Also saw Ramsey on the F Word doing mushrooms duxelle, and he bzzted the mushrooms in a food processer first, then cooked in a dry pan with salt to release moisture before adding any fat.

                1. re: weezycom

                  That really makes a lot of sense. I will definitely do that. Thanks.

          3. re: Gio

            Jacques Pepin contradicts the mushroom snobs who pooh-pooh the ordinary button mushroom, saying they have plenty of flavor. Furthermore, although the typical advice is to buy mushrooms with the gills still tightly closed, Pepin says they have more flavor when they are a little older, so he always looks for the ones that are marked down for quick sale, cautioning that you then need to scrape out the brown gills with a spoon if you are making a light-colored dish, lest it look muddy. They will soak up a lot of fat, as does eggplant, but when sauteed over fairly high heat, will need less fat, brown nicely, and release liquid which then reduces. Don't be afraid to crank up the heat - it imparts better flavor, and the 'shrooms won't get rubbery. You can also toss them with oil and bake or broil them. I'm in the camp that doesn't wash them - just brush off the dirt (cultivated ones are grown in a clean medium) with a paper towel or toothbrush. If you choose to wash them, you MUST dry them right away and use them immediately thereafter.

            A great variety of dried mushrooms can be found in Asian markets although you need to make up your own mind about the safety of growing standards abroad. They are much cheaper than those in supermarkets and gourmet shops. Costco sells a large plastic container of mixed dried mushrooms packed domestically, but it doesn't say where they are grown (I'm assuming this means China - if domestic, they'd say so). Soak dried mushrooms in warm/hot water until soft, then chop and use as your recipe directs. Don't toss the soaking liquid - it has a lot of flavor. Pour it carefully into another container, leaving the grit behind, or through a coffee filter. Add it to your sauce or freeze and use it next time you make stock. Dried mushrooms ground to powder in a coffee grinder can be added to sauces without rehydrating, and can be mixed into breadings for pan-fried meats/poultry/seafood.

              1. re: greygarious

                One of my favorite preps to do with dried mushrooms is use dried porcini mushroom powder with fine sea salt to great steak as a dry rub/brine. It delivers a luscious crust when cooked over very high heat. Delicious.

            1. Creamed mushrooms: I love white button mushrooms cooked with some wine, shallots, and at the end add cream! I love this with a crunchy piece of sourdough toast or any good bread, really. (I use the paper towel method to clean the mushrooms, by the way)

              And this is just AMAZING, in my top three dips EVER. Be hungry. Perfect to devour while watching a movie. This becomes dinner when I make it, though of course it's also great as an hors deuvres to bring to a party.

              *Michael Field's hot mushroom dip, discovered here on chow courtesy of JoanN:

              Saute 3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots in 4 tablespoons of butter for about 4 minutes. Add 1/2 pound finely chopped mushrooms and cook until moisture has evaporated. Sprinkle mixture with 2 tablespoons of flour until it's no longer visible. Add 1 cup heavy cream and bring to a boil until thickened. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook another minute or two. Remove from pan and stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne, 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley, 1-1/2 tablespoon finely chopped chives, and 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice. Can be refrigerated until ready to use. Fill whatever container, sprinkle with Parmesan, dot with a bit of butter, and bake about 10 minutes at 350 degrees.

              I make a great mushroom strudel. Mushrooms sauteed with shallot, then mixed with cream cheese and sour cream, wrap in phyllo forming logs. I have brought this to holiday dinners as the vegetarian option and everyone RAVES. I will post the recipe if anyone wants it -- found this in the original Moosewood cookbook. Mollie Katzen's books also contain lots of great ideas for mushrooms!

              3 Replies
              1. re: foxy fairy

                I'd love that recipe. Thanks in advance, foxy fairy.

                1. re: foxy fairy

                  Oh, foxy! It really warms my heart to see that Michael Field recipe come up again and to know that you like it so much. I've been making it for more than 40 years now and have never tired of it.

                  Just to add, I most often serve it as an hors d'oeuvre in toast cups. I cut thin-sliced Pepperidge Farm white bread into a large circle using a biscuit cutter or the top of a glass, roll it out slightly with a rolling pin, fit the circles into mini-muffin tins (pressing them down gently with a ball of rolled-up bread crusts), and toast them in the oven until they're lightly browned. But I've also used the duxelles to stuff mushrooms and, for a knife-and-fork appetizer, puff pastry shells.

                  1. re: foxy fairy

                    Creamed or cooked down with wine and herbs, garlic, etc is delicious on polenta with lots of freshly grated parmeggaino.

                  2. I cook in a little olive oil and butter, and sometimes add some broth too, rather than more oil. Always add sherry for flavor. From what I understand, the white and portobello varieties have very little nutritional value, and shitaki has the most, so I like to mix and match. Fresh is better, but I always have dried on hand for "emergencies".

                    1. Fresh, we prefer to buy the loose ones, not packaged...
                      on home-made pizza!
                      In chickpea vindaloo or tika masala!
                      In veggie stir fry!
                      In veg goulash!

                      1. If you have a grill, mushrooms grilled are delicious. Of late dh & I have been living on grilled portobello mushrooms brushed with a bit of grapeseed oil & plum sauce. So good!

                        quick primer

                        1. My favorite way to prepare mushooms is to cook them in some olive oil with garlic, onions and red wine. I could the mushrooms until the wine has cooked down. This is really tasty and I like to mix it up with different types of mushrooms, although white button work just fine!

                            1. Hi! Please remember to check the mushrooms for freshness when you buy them. I hope this makes sense--you don't want the caps to separate from the stem. Look for a "tight seal" between cap and stem (no space).

                              I can't believe no one has talked about stuffed mushrooms yet. These are one of my favorites and one of the first mushroom recipes I ever made when I first started playing around in the kitchen.

                              Carefully pop off the stem from each cap. Place caps in a baking dish. Mince stems. Now you have some choices. Mince fresh garlic (or a shallot) or you can use garlic powder later in the recipe. If you're starting with fresh garlic or shallot, sautee it in some butter. You don't want to brown the garlic. Then add the stems. Fresh parsley is nice to add to the mix--dried if fresh isn't available. Make this recipe your own--add rosemary or any other spice you love. Then wine! I prefer sherry or Harvey's Bristol Cream when we have it. Madeira or marsala work nicely, too. Fresh breadcrumbs are best (soft bread run over a box grater), but packaged breadcrumbs work, too. My mom will add pecorino romano. I'm happy without it, but one more idea to consider. Add breadcrumbs to the mushroom/butter/wine mix, then stuff the caps. Bake at about 350 degrees F. You'll know the mushrooms are done when they have changed color. Maybe 15-20 minutes if I had to guess. I just do it by looking, so keep an eye on them your first time.

                              ALTERNATIVE OPTION: Slice up the whole shroom (don't reserve caps) to make a wonderful stuffing for chicken. Cornbread crumbs for stuffing are an excellent breadcrumb alternative here. I have thrown in diced dried apricots with this variation. Yum!

                              1. Gosh where to start? I love mushrooms and make them a few ways and have different ways of cooking them depending on the recipe I'm making.

                                I love to make them as a side dish. I love to saute them in butter and olive oil. Sometimes scallions or leeks, wine and garlic, and then worcestershire sauce. These are great with steaks. I guess you have an alternative protein?

                                I found that when I want them in a quiche or lasagne It's best to put them in a dry saute pan and cook them high. They will brown up and the flavor is fantastic, and they won't release any liquid into the quiche or baked casserole.

                                Stuffed mushrooms. I make them and like to use the sauteed stem, ham or proscuitto, scallion, garlic, monterey jack or fontina, and bread crumbs. Top with cheese and more bread crumbs turn the broiler on at the end to get a nice little crust. So good.

                                Another one is for portobellos, make a thick beef or sausage (you can use the tofu product it's actually very good) marinara , stuff the caps cover with mozz, and bread crumbs and basil, run them under the broiler to finish them off. That is a meal. I've stuffed them with cheesey mashed potatoes with chives or garlic and spinach and mashed potatoes, topped with fontina, and cheddar and bread crumbs. It's a meal believe me.

                                I don't like the gills, I clean that stuff out. Besides it also allows for more stuffing. There are so many combinations. Just think about pizza and all the great toppings, the mushroom can be used the same way.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: chef chicklet

                                  I also love using portobellos as pizzas or like burgers. Just marinate w/a little oil, vinegar & s&p, then grill or broil and top with cheese, arugula, roasted peppers and eat on a bun or knife & fork.

                                  My oldest son just discovered mushrooms, and he loves them roasted, quartered or whole small buttons, seasoned and oiled, and roasted at high heat. Similar to sauteing, just an oven method.

                                  There are also lots of good marinated mushroom recipes too, and I love them in salads or on a nice antipasto platter.

                                2. My favourite way with, say, button mushrooms is just raw in salad or just dunked in mayo as a snack.

                                  For the large flat field mushrooms, treat them as a meat-eater would deal with a burger.

                                  And I'm in the "don't put water anywhere near them to clean" camp.