I never understood why people hate mushrooms. We all have our preferences, but mushrooms, with their rich umami flavor and distinct texture, deserve more love.
Mushrooms have a reputation for being slimy, but excess moisture is usually the culprit. Here’s how to stop it.
First, don’t wash them. Instead, brush off any visible dirt with a pastry brush. Or not, really. Many store-bought mushrooms such as cremini, portobello or white button are grown in sanitized peat.
If you’re working with big old portobello mushroom caps, go ahead and scrape off the slats. They may contain chunks of sand, sure, but they’re more likely to turn your food an unappetizing brown.
Worried about bacteria? The kitchen should take care of that. I don’t believe mushrooms should be eaten raw. Stop putting them in salads. They’re not even that good.
Wild mushrooms, such as chanterelles and oysters, may require a little more work to remove dirt. They can get a little gritty with forest detritus, which would be a great group name. Just get to work with your pastry brush, add a few more strokes with paper towels, and you should be fine.
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Then you are ready to start cooking.
If you are sautéing chanterelles, criminis or other small mushrooms, cook them in a very hot pan and do not crowd them at all. You may want to cook in batches. Put your frying pan very hot, add a little oil, then introduce the mushrooms in small quantities, one batch at a time. Brown them well, stirring them, then add a knob of butter, fresh thyme and salt. The salt comes last because it causes the mushrooms to release their water. Continue as needed.
Sauteed mushrooms are great as a side dish or mixed with noodles and butter. You can make a mushroom sauce by deglazing the pan with a splash of wine and chicken broth, and reducing a little. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. You now have the perfect pan sauce for steak or pork chops.
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Mushrooms are also very well roasted. Just cut them to size or leave them whole, toss them with olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme, then roast them at 400 degrees until tender. they are golden brown, about 15 minutes.
Also, you should steal my portobello mushroom wrap idea. Marinate a portobello cap with a little soy sauce and balsamic vinegar, then sauté the whole cap over medium-high heat, add a touch of salt and cook until it sags a bit and be well cooked. Then slice the hat and wrap it with lettuce, thick slices of heirloom tomatoes, basil leaves, and sliced red onions. I like to spread the wrap with whipped feta with a little honey, cream and red pepper flakes. It’s the perfect sandwich.
Or, try this hearty meatless portobello mushroom stew, which is as hearty as the beef stew it mimics. At its base is a rich mushroom broth, enriched with root vegetables.
For: 12 cups
6 ounces Portobello mushroom stems
1 unpeeled carrot, sliced
1 small leek, cut lengthwise
1 small unpeeled white onion, coarsely chopped
1 celery rib, sliced
1 clove garlic, unpeeled
1 sprig of parsley
1/2 bay leaf
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
6 cups of water
6 tablespoons of olive oil
8 ounces rutabagas, roughly diced
8 ounces parsnips, coarsely diced
8 ounces carrots, coarsely diced
8 ounces shallots, halved
2 1/2 pounds portobello mushroom caps, quartered
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons red wine
1 can (16 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
To make a mushroom broth: In a small pot or Dutch oven, combine the mushroom stems, carrot, leek, onion, celery, garlic, parsley, bay leaf, peppercorns and thyme. Add the water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat low enough to maintain a simmer and cook, uncovered, for about 1 hour, or until reduced by 1/3 to make 4 cups.
Reserve 2 cups for the mushroom stew and reserve the rest for another use.
To make the soup: In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Add the rutabagas, parsnips, carrots and shallots. Cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown and caramelized, about 12 to 15 minutes. Add mushrooms, garlic, rosemary and thyme. Cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the wine and stir to deglaze the pan. Add tomatoes and prepared mushroom broth and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce to low heat and simmer for about 45 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk together the water and flour. Stir into stew and cook, uncovered, for another 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Serve immediately or cool to room temperature and refrigerate.
Rabbit pappardelle with mushrooms
If you are unfamiliar with rabbit, you should ask your butcher to cut it into six pieces for you. However, if you are willing to try this step yourself, you need to separate the two legs and both arms and cut the body (saddle) into two pieces.
For: 4 to 6
1 rabbit cut into 6 pieces
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons rapeseed oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
2 large crushed garlic cloves
1 cup chicken broth
1 sprig of rosemary
1 cup cremini mushrooms, stemmed
1/2 cup freshly shucked English peas
1 package (8 to 10 ounces) fresh pappardelle pasta
In a large bowl, mix the rabbit pieces with the flour, 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a medium Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, brown the rabbit pieces, in batches, until a golden crust forms on all sides. Transfer the golden rabbit to a plate.
Reduce heat to medium. Add the butter and, when it melts, the onions. Cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes longer.
Add the chicken broth and rosemary sprig, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Once the liquid is bubbling gently, return the rabbit to the pan. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until rabbit is very tender, about 1 hour.
Carefully remove the rabbit from the pan and transfer it to a plate. Bring the remaining liquid in the saucepan to a rapid boil over medium-high heat. Continue to simmer rapidly until the liquid has thickened into a sauce to coat the pasta, about 10 minutes. Set aside, covered, to keep warm.
While the braising liquid simmers, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.
Once the water is on, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is simmering, add the mushrooms and peas and cook, stirring frequently, until the peas are nicely bubbled and the mushrooms are golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. (Some peas may jump out of the pan; be careful!) Season to taste with salt and pepper.
When the braising liquid has reduced, put the rabbit back in the pan, along with the mushrooms and peas. Keep warm over low heat.
Drop pasta into boiling water and cook until al dente, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain well, then add to the pot with the rabbit and vegetables. Stir gently to coat everything with the sauce. Serve.
Mackensy Lunsford is the Food and Culture Storyteller for USA TODAY Network’s Southern Region and Editor-in-Chief of Southern Kitchen.
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