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Mushrooms: A Culinary Treasure

By Elizabeth Leader Smith, December 11, 2011  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Elizabeth Leader Smith

Hearty Lentil and Sausage Soup As temperatures drop, pumpkins, butternut squash and cranberries take center stage on menus. However there's another bumper crop that deserves applause — mushrooms. Most mushrooms are available year-round, however many are at their peak in fall and winter. So now's the time to learn the difference between portobello and porcini or maitake and morel and how to spotlight them at your table.

Selecting

For cooking whole, choose smaller mushrooms. For slicing or chopping, medium-sized varieties work best. For stuffing, choose those with large caps. Though some mushrooms may be used together or interchangeably in some recipes, each type imparts slightly different flavors and has its ideal uses:

White Button

Mild flavor and versatile these are great for sautéing, pastas and pizza.

 

Cremini

Also known as Baby Bella their mildly earthy flavor stands up to almost any cooking method and enhances meat and veggie dishes.

 

Chanterelle

Their flavor ranges from apricot-like to fruity earthiness and they’re wonderful simply sautéed with olive oil.

 

Enoki

Delicate with a mild, sweet taste, their slightly crunchy texture make them best for using raw in salads, floating on soups or tossing into a stir-fry just before serving.

 

Maitake

A meaty texture with a bold flavor, it holds up well in stir-fries and soups.

 

Morel

Spongy caps hide a hollow interior that must be rinsed thoroughly. The Intense, earthy flavor complements meats well; however, fresh morels sautéed in butter are worth a try on their own.

 

Oyster

Their flavor is delicate, so cook only briefly. The normal color ranges from white to grey-brown. Some exotic varieties can be pink to yellow. These are complemented by butter, onion, seafood and gentle herbs.

 

Porcini

Smooth, moist and firm, their robust, meaty flavor and sturdy texture stand up to long cooking times. Remove the veil (stringy material under the cap) prior to cooking. (Save the liquid from soaking dried porcinis for soup and sauce making!)

 

Portobello

A deep, meaty texture and complex flavor. The large size is great for grilling, stuffing, sandwiches and appetizers.

 

Shiitake

A strong flavor makes it a good all-purpose mushroom, and its firm texture stands up to long cooking times. Always remove the stems!

 

Truffle

Stemless, difficult-to-find foraged fungi that add distinct flavor to mild foods, especially rice, pasta and egg dishes. A small truffle shaving imparts big flavor.

 

Wood Ear

Mild flavor, unique curly shape and firm, chewy texture. It’s best to add these during final minutes of cooking. They’re great in stir-fries.

 

Storing

Refrigerate unwashed fresh mushrooms in a paper bag or their original container, and place them on a regular shelf (rather than in a high-humidity produce drawer) in your fridge. They remain freshest when neither too dry, nor too damp, so avoid storing them in airtight plastics. Use soon after purchase so they remain firm and blemish free and so they don't absorb odors or flavors from other foods in the fridge.

Using

To clean, brush off the dirt with a soft brush or damp paper towel. Mushrooms absorb water easily, so ideally they shouldn't be rinsed or soaked. You can use the stems of most mushrooms though cut off and discard any portion of the stem holding a lot of soil. (If a recipe calls for only the caps, don't forget to save the stems for making stock!) Try some of these classic as well as unique ways to cook with mushrooms:

Do you have a favorite cold weather mushroom recipe? What is it?

 

10 Comments

Comments

Gloria says ...
I just learned how to dehydrate mushrooms and other foods, naturally, using a Japanese Food Drying Net. I love the texture and, I agree with Yvette, the enhanced flavor of the mushroom wonderful. I can't wait to experiment with new the recipes!
12/17/2011 4:41:49 PM CST
zphysics says ...
where's the king trumpet mushroom?
12/16/2011 6:41:50 AM CST
Jerri says ...
Love mushrooms. My new favorite way to cook them is to make this bitty baby Bella bruschetta - http://www.cooking4carnivores.com/2011/07/bitty-bella-bruschetta.html?m=1
12/12/2011 10:45:40 AM CST
susan says ...
Love to simply sauté and
12/12/2011 1:52:01 PM CST
Dave Beaulieu says ...
Mushrooms are one of my favorite foods all year long, but especially during winter. They are so flexible, and delicious. I have a number of goto mushroom recipes, but one of my all time favorites is Mushroom Risotto - you can find a simple version here: http://www.noreciperequired.com/recipe/mushroom-risotto
12/13/2011 10:17:04 AM CST
Vered says ...
These "pizza" mushroom appetizers taste almost as good as pizza, but have far fewer calories: http://healthyrecipesblogs.com/2011/12/13/mushroom-appetizer/
12/13/2011 10:30:29 AM CST
YVETTE says ...
The correct way to preserve mushrooms of any kind is, First they must be dehydrated.You can store them until ready to be eaten and then only then should they be washed and rehydrated before cooking. By doing this you preserve the life and the enhance the flavor of the mushroom itself which the Japanese call umame(OOH-MOMMIE) I have been foraging & cultivating mushrooms for over 30 years.
12/15/2011 1:41:17 PM CST
mike v. says ...
Concerning the Porcini (Boletus sp.): This is not a veil under the cap, but rather spore tubes. In young specimens, these tubes can be left in place, which adds flavor and texture.
02/18/2012 12:00:49 PM CST
Norma Lehmeier Hartie says ...
I bought mushrooms last week at the White Plains, NY store and don't know name. They are not listed above; $20 pound, 1-2" brown top, fairly thin; looks most like chanterelles, but not quite. Can you eat stems? What is name? I think they began with an "M". Thanks!
12/17/2012 5:26:22 PM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@NORMA - I would suggest that you reach out to the White Plans store directly at 914.288.1300 for what types they stock!
12/18/2012 4:51:10 PM CST