When it comes to mushrooms you either love them or hate them. When properly cooked, mushrooms have deep, nutty, caramelized flavors and a combination of soft and crispy textures. What's not to love? Unfortunately, mushrooms are often undercooked, or cooked improperly, so that they're flabby and bland.
It takes a seemingly oversize pan to cook mushrooms properly. Extended contact with the bottom of a hot pan gradually pulls water from the mushrooms. After the excess liquid has evaporated, that same hot pan browns and coaxes flavor from the 'shrooms. When in doubt, a bigger pan is better.
Oyster Mushrooms ... I separate the mushrooms, which are often connected at the base of their stems. I toss with some olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Then I roast them at 375 degrees in an oven until they brown and begin to crisp. They're great tossed into a salad or sprinkled on Macaroni and Cheese.
Beech (or shimeji) Mushrooms ... (at Asian markets and cellophane wrapped at Whole Foods Market)... I like to sauté until golden then use on flatbread pizza with Manchego or Gruyere cheese.
Hen of the Woods (maitake) ... Alone or with other mushrooms -- make a great sautéed side dish. You can use either butter or olive oil or a blend. I usually start with some onion in the pan, and I might add some minced garlic. After that, all the mushrooms need is time in the pan and a little salt and pepper.
Portobello ... often described as meaty in taste and texture, make a great base for a lentils or quinoa or rice. Remove the stems and gills -- I use a spoon to remove the gills -- and then brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake at 375 degrees until they flatten out (which is a sign that they're cooked through). Top them with your favorite lentil, quinoa, or rice recipe.
Crimini ... these are technically baby portobellos and they're my basic everyday mushroom. They have more flavor than white button mushrooms, they're almost always available, and they're not pricey. I place them in a baking dish and toss with chopped leeks, bell peppers, olive oil, and then top with a little grated Parmesan or other hard cheese. After 20 minutes at 375 degrees, they're a prefect side, especially with steak.
Any way you slice them, if they're browned and seasoned properly, mushrooms are an easy way to make your old favorite recipes even better.
Andy Broder is the chef/owner of AndyFood, A Culinary Studio.
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