Mad about Mushrooms

The large choice of mushrooms provides great flavor without fat or calories.

By FamilyTime


While the markets seem to burst with scores of mushroom varieties, in fact only a small percentage of the more than 40,000 kinds are familiar to the home cook. Most of us cook with just a few.

Fresh cultivated mushrooms range from white all-purpose mushrooms to exotic morels and enoki. Regardless of the mushroom, you can count on rich, earthiness whenever you cook with them.

It's this deep flavor that makes mushrooms so popular with cooks. They add good taste and texture without fat or calories.

Selecting, Storing, and Preparing Mushrooms
Choose smooth, unblemished mushrooms with their stems attached. Don't buy them if they are dried out, wrinkled, broken, or soggy. If you can hand pick them from a basket, choose the heaviest (moistest) specimens.

Fresh mushrooms keep for only three or four days in the refrigerator. They do best stored in a paper bag, which absorbs moisture, rather than a plastic bag, which holds it in and can make the mushrooms slimy.

Another option for refrigerator storage is to spread mushrooms on a tray and cover them with a well wrung, damp dishtowel or paper towel.

Mushrooms should never be soaked in water or left too long under running water. They absorb moisture easily, which leaches flavor.

Before preparing, wipe mushrooms with a damp paper towel, or run them quickly under running, cool water and then dry them with a clean cloth or paper towel.

A gentle mushroom brush is a handy tool for removing the soil clinging to mushrooms. If you are going to cook with mushrooms often, one of these is a good investment.

Remove the mushroom stems and save them for stocks and to flavor sauces. Slice or chop the caps, as needed for the recipe.

Dried mushrooms, which must be rehydrated, are more intensely flavorful than their fresh counterparts. Use these mixed with fresh or on their own. Some dishes, particularly those with Asian origins, call for rehydrated dried mushrooms.

Cooking Mushrooms
Mushrooms soften quickly when added to a hot sauté pan. While a short cooking time is all that is required for some recipes, for the best flavor, let the mushrooms cook longer.

Once fresh mushrooms release their natural liquids, leave them to cook over medium or medium-low heat until they reabsorb those juices. This makes them especially flavorful.

If you plan to add mushrooms to soups, risottos, sauces, or similar dishes, or want them to top pizzas or sandwiches, sauté them first. The flavor will be better.