how to cook with mushrooms

How to Cook With Mushrooms
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The world of mushrooms is way beyond small white button varieties. There are big, juicy portobellos, porcinis, which give risottos their deep, earthy flavour and golden chanterelles, which add sweetness and soft texture to a variety of pasta dishes. With so many varieties available throughout the year, you won’t have to travel further than the local market to explore them all and get cooking in the kitchen. So, let’s look a little further at the flavour profiles and characteristics of some of the most popular mushroom varieties.

What Are Mushrooms?

Mushrooms belong to the world of funghi. Similar to plant seeds, mushrooms can regenerate on their own through the germination of their spore. However, unlike plants, they don’t need food or light to grow, they simply digest their own nutrients. They are high in fiber and vitamins and are also fat- and cholesterol-free. With so many mushroom species, it’s best to find an expert who is familiar with the wild mushrooms in the area to confirm if they are edible or not because some are toxic and can make you seriously ill or even kill if eaten (if you find yourself hiking in the woods and think you have found an edible variety).

Mushrooms are also very popular in Asian and European cuisines and are popular for their versatility as well as their meat-like flavour and are best bought from greengrocers, local markets, supermarkets and mushroom farms.

How to Clean Mushrooms

Try not to soak mushrooms in fresh water, it’s better to give them a quick rinse in cold water to remove loose dirt and gently pat dry using a paper towel. For mushrooms like morels, you can clean them using a soft bristle brush or a damp paper towel.

Different Types of Mushrooms

Button or White Mushroom

This mushroom is the most common and mildest-tasting mushroom you’ll find in any grocery store. It’s one of the mildest-tasting mushrooms in comparison to wild mushrooms.

  • They can be eaten raw or cooked and can be sliced up and used as toppings on pizza, and also great in soups and tossed in salads.

Shiitake Mushroom

Shiitake mushrooms means “oak fungus” and are commonly used in Asian cuisine. They’re generally found in the wild and are identified by their umbrella-shaped brown caps and light woody flavour and aroma. Shiitake mushrooms have a meaty texture with an earthy, umami flavour when cooked.

  • They are great sautéed, fried, stir-fried and roasted. They can be used as toppings on pizza, and can be added to soups and pasta dishes.

Portobello Mushroom

Common in Italian cooking. They are hearty and add depth of flavour to  creamy sauces and pastas. The meaty texture of this mushroom makes it a great substitute for meat.

  • They make for a delicious vegetarian burger and ideal for grilling and stuffing. They can also be marinated and roasted.

Cremini (Baby Portobello “Bella” Mushroom)

A crimino is a young and small portobello mushroom that is more flavourful than most types of button mushrooms. They are the ideal substitute for any recipe using buttons mushroom varieties.

  • If you are looking for a heartier flavour, use it in place of button mushrooms.

Oyster Mushroom

It is a common edible mushroom used in Chinese and Japanese cuisine, which are found in the wild growing on trees, although store bought ones are generally farm cultivated. They’re white to light brown in colour, which are fan-shaped with a mild and sweet flavour.

  • Ideal in stir-fries and soups.

Enoki Mushroom

Enoki mushrooms are commonly used in Asian cooking. They come in small clusters with shiny white caps attached to long, thin stems. They are found growing on many types of trees including, ash, mulberry and persimmon.

  • They can be eaten raw or can be used in spring rolls, soups and sautéed dishes.

Morel Mushroom

Morel mushrooms is a desired wild mushrooms, which is a springtime treat. They have a distinctive spongy and conical shape with a nutty, woody-earthy flavour.

  • They are delicious when sautéed in butter and cooked in risotto.

Maitake

Maitake are cultivated as well as found wild and are often found in clusters with soft overlapping feathery caps. This mushroom has an earthy aroma and is native to both the northwestern United States and Japan.

  • Perfect when seared in a large cluster, or deep fried.

Porcini Mushroom

Porcini mushrooms are one of the most prized wild mushrooms and commonly used in Italian and French cooking (most commonly known as cèpes). They are reddish-brown in colour with smooth texture and woody-nutty flavors. They are often sold dried, and can be soaked in hot water before using.

  • Ideal when added to braised dishes and can be ground and sprinkled onto anything as a dry rub, or cooked in risotto.

King Oyster (King Trumpet Mushroom)

This variety is all about the thick, white, meaty stem that is full of flavour and texture.

  • Ideal when sliced into medallions and sautéed, or if sliced vertically they are perfect for grilling or roasting.

Black Trumpet (Black Chanterelle)

This wavy-capped fungi is a late-summer bloomer in the Midwest and East and grows all winter long on the West Coast (US). Black trumpets are rich and smoky in flavour and when dried have notes of black truffle.

  • Ideal when sautéed.

Chanterelle Mushroom

Chanterelles are one of the most popular wild mushrooms. They are trumpet-like shaped with golden flesh. They’re common in many European cuisines and are popular for their woody flavour and velvety texture.

  • Ideal when sautéed.

Black Truffle (French Black Truffle)

This variety is seasonal and one of the most expensive mushrooms. Their flavour is unlike anything else, it’s pungent with an earthy scent.

  • Use sparingly over scrambled eggs, pastas and soups.

Beech (Shimeji Mushrooms)

When cooked, these small brown-capped clusters are sweet and nutty. They can be found in most Asian grocery stores.

  • Perfect in stir-fries, noodle soups and any type of Asian soup dishes.

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