Fresh morels (photo by Sarah Shatz)
We're in the midst of Mushroom Mania in our stores right now, and given the wealth of varieties to choose from, we figured you might need a little mushroom primer to distinguish one cap from another, as well as a few recipes for inspiration. This week, we're talking about fresh mushroom varieties, both cultivated and wild. Check back next Tuesday for a guide to their everlasting cousins in the dried camp.
TO WASH OR NOT TO WASH
Preparing fresh mushrooms is fairly simple, right? When it comes to de-stemming (save those scraps for stock!) and chopping, sure. But getting the mushrooms clean enough to work with in the first place place is a subject of debate, and we think it's finally time to put it to rest.
Both The New York Times' Melissa Clark and Food Network's Alton Brown agree that washing fresh mushrooms will not result in soggy 'shrooms, despite their sponge-like nature, and the evidence in our own kitchens points us to the same conclusion. Wash mushrooms under cold running water or bob them in a bowl of water and let the grit sink to the bottom, then wipe any extra-clingy grit off with a towel, and dry. The only thing your mushrooms will be soaking up is flavor.
Deliciously nutty when cooked, with a firm, slightly crunchy texture. Adds flavor to stir-fries, soups, stews, and sauces; complements seafood dishes. A favorite in Japan.
This "baby portobello" is considered all-purpose with an earthy, meaty texture and mild flavor. Use in any dish requiring high-heat cooking: baking, roasting, or stewing.
Typically sold in clusters, these tender, white mushrooms offer a fruity, mild taste and need only a small amount of cooking. Use as a garnish scattered over heated soups or other cooked hot dishes.
A favorite for its delicate woodsy flavor and firm texture, this versatile mushroom stands up well to cooking, including deep frying. It adds rich flavor to pasta sauces.
Mild and tasty with a pleasant odor when cooked. Adds flavor to stir-fries and character to light cream sauces for fish and chicken dishes.
While the taste is mild and sweet, it’s the texture -- often compared to lobster or tender veal -- that sets this mushroom apart. It’s enjoyed fried, boiled, or stewed, and in sauces. Considered medicinal in China.
Often compared to filet mignon when grilled, roasted, or sautéed because cooking enhances its rich, robust flavor and texture. Cooked portobellos may be stored in the freezer for up to three months.
Characterized by a firm texture and a nutty flavor that gets richer the longer it cooks (grill, braise, stew or boil). Used to flavor soups, salads, and pastas, as well as meat, chicken, and seafood dishes.
A versatile flavor booster that complements nearly any cooked dish with its smoky flavor and chewy, meaty texture. In Asia, shiitakes are a symbol of longevity and particularly favored by herbalists.
Fresh shiitakes (photo by Sarah Shatz)
Considered by connoisseurs as the most delectable of all mushrooms, it provides richness and depth to seafood, chicken, veal, pork, pasta, and rice dishes. Makes a great pizza topping, too.
These pale blue mushrooms offer a strong flavor that goes well with onions and leeks, and in polenta and egg dishes, too. Wonderful sautéed and served with fish.
Prized for adding a sweet, nutty flavor to just about any dish. Both fresh and dried mushrooms are firm and meaty when cooked, and they’re ideal for flavoring stews and stuffings.
In the same family as the truffle and offering a smoky, earthy, nutty flavor. Best enjoyed simply (such as sautéed in butter), paired with fish dishes and soups, and used in wine reduction sauces.
Known for its nutty-woodsy, sweet, meaty taste and chewy texture. Used fresh and dried in cooking (the dried has enhanced flavor). For stir-fries, risottos, sauces, soups, stews, and stuffings.
Gelatinous but firm and without much flavor, this mushroom is primarily used for adding color and chewy texture to meat dishes, stir-fries, and soups.
Its delicately sweet, peppery flavor and slightly chewy texture make it perfect for soups, stews, poultry, rice, and vegetable dishes, tartlettes, and crostini. Best cooking method: sautéing.
SPECIAL FEATURE: KENNETT SQUARE CHEF'S BLEND
We're delighted to offer for a limited time during March Mushroom Mania the Kennett Square Chef's Blend from Phillips Mushroom Farms, featuring Beech, Royal Trumpet, and Shiitake mushrooms. This blend is available in both five- and eight-ounce containers, and would work beautifully in this recipe for Herb-Crusted Turkey Breast with Mushroom-Leek Stuffing.
Scallops with Shiitake Mushrooms and Lemon over Linguine
Red Wine and Mushroom Beef Stew
Wild Mushroom Lasagne
Mediterranean Cremini Mushroom and Chickpea Medallions
Morel Crostini [FOOD52]
Creamy Mushroom Soup [FOOD52]
Meg's Marinated Mushrooms [FOOD52]
What are your favorite mushrooms varieties and how do you enjoy them? Share your cooking tips (and weigh in on the washing debate) in the comments section below!