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Your Ultimate Guide to Mushrooms

Mushrooms come in all shapes and sizes, but they all look weird. From the portobello mushrooms you can buy at the store to the “death cap” mushrooms that can kill by shutting down kidney function, mushrooms look like they belong in some alien landscape.

Many of us don’t really understand the difference between shiitakes, morels, and white buttons. We either eschew mushrooms altogether or stick to the canned variety when we want a new pizza topping.

Below, we discuss the six mushrooms you need to know about and provide two tasty recipes for you to try.

Chanterelle

With their golden color and wavy frills, you could almost mistake chanterelles for flowers. Chanterelle mushrooms are floral, fruity, and peppery and pair well with eggs. Chanterelles are quick to release their own moisture when cooked, so they work best when prepared in a dry sauté.

White Button

White buttons are possibly the most common type of mushroom sold at the grocery store. They are harvested while young and have an earthy flavor that is great for soups and for stuffed mushroom recipes.
Mature button mushrooms are sold as “creminis” or “baby portobellos.” Substitute them in your favorite button recipes for a deeper flavor. The final stage of the button mushroom is the “portobello,” which is commonly used as a meat substitute. It is particularly tasty when marinated and grilled.

Morel

Morel mushrooms are a favorite for mushroom hunters, as they are easy to spot and grow in a variety of forested regions throughout the US. Morels sprout in the spring, from late March through May. Morels look sort of like dried up honeycomb, but are full of flavor and worth the effort. Nicknames for the morel include “dryland fish”, “molly moocher”, and “hickory chickens.”

Always be careful when cooking mushrooms you find in the woods. There are a number of species that look similar to morels, often called “false morels,” and some are toxic.

Shiitake

Shiitake mushrooms are grown mainly in China, Japan, and South Korea, which is why they are so common in Asian cuisine. They are brown with a wide cap – pretty much the basic image of what we think of when we say “mushroom.” Shiitakes are savory and chewy. They are great additions to meat dishes and
soups. If you can’t find shiitakes at your local grocery store, look for them in powder form.

Oyster

Oyster mushrooms look nothing like your average button mushroom, which is why many people have never tried experimenting with them in the kitchen. Oysters grow in layered groupings and have a white or tan color. They have short stalks with wide, wavy caps. Oyster mushrooms are easy to grow, making them generally inexpensive. They have a sweet, delicate taste that has been compared to anise.

Porcini

Porcini mushrooms are light brown in color, with a thick stalk and a cap that can range between 1 and 10 inches across. Porcinis are common in Italian cuisine. They offer a nutty, creamy flavor similar to that of a portobello. Porcinis are sold fresh, canned, and dried. Their aroma has been compared to sourdough bread.

Breakfast Recipe: Morel & Scallion Omelet (2 servings)

Want to try something new for breakfast? Whip up this tasty mushroom filing and add it to your omelet:

Start with ½ oz. dried morels and submerge them in 1 ¼ cups hot water for about 20 minutes

Remove mushrooms with slotted spoon and strain soaking liquid; set this aside for later

Cut larger mushrooms into ¼-inch strips

Melt 1 tsp. butter in a medium skillet on medium-high heat

Toss in a handful of sliced scallions and ¼ tsp. salt

Stir scallions until wilted (1-2 minutes) and then stir in mushrooms, ½ tsp. Dijon mustard, and ¼ cup soaking liquid

Cook for 3 minutes, or until mushrooms are tender and soaking liquid has evaporated

This savory morel breakfast recipe works with either fresh or dried morels.

Dinner Recipe: Stuffed Portobellos with Oven-Roasted Tomatoes and Goat Cheese (4 servings)

For this recipe, you will need four large portobello mushrooms. Look for specimens that are firm and moist.

Start by making oven-roasted tomatoes:

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees

Toss 1 pound cherry tomatoes (halved) with 1 tbsp. olive oil, 3 garlic cloves (finely chopped), 1 tbsp. thyme leaves (chopped), and salt and pepper (to taste)

Place tomatoes on foil-lined baking sheet

Roast for 20-25 minutes

While tomatoes are roasting, prepare mushrooms: wipe gently with a damp paper towel to remove dirt. Pop out the step and use a spoon to scrape out the gills.

Whisk together 3 tbsp. olive oil, 1 tbsp. lemon juice, 1 large garlic clove (finely chopped), and 2 tsp. shallot (finely chopped)

Brush olive oil mixture on mushrooms and place on foil-lined baking sheet (alternatively, you can use plain olive oil or your favorite vinaigrette)

Pre-heat broiler and place oven rack on second-to-top level. Broil mushrooms for 3-5 minutes.

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Fill mushrooms with roasted tomatoes and top with 4 oz. crumbled goat cheese.

Sprinkle with 1 tbsp. chopped chives and 1 tbsp. chopped parsley.

Bake for 12 minutes for a great appetizer or meatless meal. If serving for dinner,
pair with salad or wheat pasta.

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