Making The Most Of Mushrooms

Sauteing mushrooms is an important part of preparing many great fall dishes.
Sauteing mushrooms is an important part of preparing many great fall dishes.

Mushrooms may grow year-round, but they are most readily available in the fall. Properly prepared, mushrooms can make an excellent addition to countless dishes or taste just as amazing on their own. Thus, any budding chef enrolled in online culinary school should learn the basics of selecting and sauteing mushrooms. Read on for tips that will help you add exceptional mushrooms to your culinary repertoire.

Finding the right mushrooms
You are probably most familiar with the common white button mushrooms that make an earthy addition to salads, pasta, omelets, steaks, pizzas or savory pies. However, mushrooms are available in a near endless array of sizes, shapes and colors, and they often exhibit marked differences in flavor and texture. Hence, your first consideration when choosing mushrooms should be what type will best suit your intended application.

Real Simple offered some helpful guidance for picking out other mushroom varieties that meet your needs. Meaty Portobellos are perfect for grilling or sauteing, and they often serve as a meat substitute in vegetarian recipes. The smoky taste of shiitakes is ideally suited for stir fry or noodle soups. The tender, fragile oyster mushroom is delicious whether sauteed or eaten raw.

Moisture is a major consideration when considering which mushrooms to purchase, as well as when cooking them. Fresh mushrooms tend to be drier, firmer and relatively free of blotches or blemishes. A little dirt, on the other hand, is nothing to worry about.

Many people believe you should never place your mushrooms in water to wash them, for risk of causing them to absorb additional moisture and become slimy during cooking. Serious Eats, however, argued that as long as you use the mushrooms soon after washing, any moisture absorption will be minimal and unlikely to interfere with cooking.

Keep in mind, dried mushrooms cannot substitute for fresh specimens in your recipes. Nonetheless, when soaked with water to rehydrate, dried mushrooms can be a flavor-packed addition to many stews, soups and sauces.

Sauteing mushrooms
Whatever use you intend for your mushrooms, whether a pasta, soup or sauce, there is a good chance the first step in your preparation will be to saute them. Despite the immense variety of mushrooms, they can be cooked using much the same technique.

Begin by cleaning and slicing your mushrooms, bearing in mind that they will shrink down as they lose moisture. Set a large skillet or saute pan at medium high heat. It’s important that the pan be big enough to allow you to spread the mushrooms out. That way, they will have even contact with the pan, and their moisture will evaporate sooner.

Heat 2-3 tablespoons of butter or olive oil in your pan. Stir in the mushrooms so they receive an even coat of butter or oil. If you like, add a little salt as well. Listen for sizzling; if you don’t hear it, you may need to increase the heat.

Stir the mushrooms frequently for the first minute or two, until you begin to see liquid in the pan. Then give them an occasional stir while cooking for another  eight to 10 minutes. Do not remove the mushrooms from heat too soon. Take your time, and allow the mushrooms sufficient time to cook off their moisture and brown. This is important for concentrating the mushrooms’ flavor.

If you are using mushrooms with other ingredients, it’s often easiest to make the mushrooms separately and mix them in before serving. If, however, you want to cook them with other vegetables, the Kitchn emphasized properly staggering the order. Onions, which require a longer time to cook, should be placed in the pan before mushrooms or asparagus. The mushrooms, in turn, should be almost done before you mix in peppers or peas.

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