Cooking with Fresh Mushrooms

Cooking with Fresh Mushrooms

Mushrooms do double duty as both a seasoning and a vegetable in their own right. In fact, white button mushrooms contain umami, a natural flavor enhancer that boosts the flavor of any food that the mushrooms are cooked with. When choosing, look for mushrooms that are firm and slightly moist, with no signs of decay. They should be heavy for their size and smell like the woods. To ensure freshness, check the gills on the underside of the mushroom. If they're tightly closed, the mushroom is young, mild-tasting and will last longer. If they're open, the mushroom is more mature and will have a more concentrated flavor but will not last long once you get it home.

Use older mushrooms soon after purchase, If you can, choose so-called "wild" mushrooms, most of which are now cultivated. Though they're more expensive than other varieties, shiitakes, creminis, chanterelles and other wild mushrooms have more intense, interesting flavors and a little bit tends to go a long way.

To store fresh mushrooms, keep them cool and dry. Refrigerate them in a basket or an open paper bag and avoid cleaning them until you're ready to use them. They should stay fresh for 4 to 5 days. When cleaning, trim the stems but avoid washing the mushrooms because they absorb water like a sponge. Instead, wipe them clean with a damp cloth or scrape them gently with a paring knife. If bits of dirt cling stubbornly to the mushrooms, go ahead and rinse them off, but cook them soon after washing, as the water promotes decay.

Some varieties of fresh mushrooms (such as enoki) can be eaten raw. But most mushrooms need to be thoroughly cooked, particularly wild ones, which contain proteins that can be difficult to digest. To cook for maximum flavor, cook mushrooms in a small amount of fat over low heat. Be sure to cook them long enough that all their flavor is released. Then, continue cooking until the liquid has evaporated. Their texture should be slightly crisp, not slippery.

To grill white mushrooms caps, thread 2 parallel skewers through the diameter of the caps. This way, they will cook evenly on both sides and will not fall through the grill rack.

Warning : Only mushroom experts should pick or use fresh mushrooms in the wild. Identifying mushrooms in the wild can be very tricky, and some varieties are poisonous and is fatal.

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