Mushrooms – Frivolities of Gastronomy



represent excellent opportunities to provide additional taste dimensions to standards recipes. Adding a few sliced mushrooms to an ordinary omelette makes all the difference to elevate it to culinary heights. There are hundreds of mushroom species. Most of them grow wild a few are cultivated.

In Eastern European countries, “mushroom hunting” (gathering wild mushrooms) is a family affair, but you must be able to distinguish those edible from poisonous. In North America, a few people, mostly professionals, hunt mushrooms and sell them privately to restaurants or within the community.

Wild mushrooms possess more flavour, and can be sold fresh or dried. Cultivated mushrooms are white, brown (crimini), portobello, oyster, shiitake, king, and enoki. Morels, and chenterelles grow wild and taste more distinct.

Shiitake, king, enoki, and oyster are relatively new cultivated varieties that were introduced in North America by immigrants from the Far East. They are more readily available in large North American cities where sufficient demand exists.

Adding mushrooms to a sauce changes its taste appreciably without adding too many calories. In North America white cultivated mushrooms are the most popular. They are grown in dark caves, or specially designed buildings, in sterilized manure.

You can still serve raw or cooked in soups, salads, appetizers, simply sautéed in butter or olive oil as a side dish, and with entrees. Always buy mushrooms with intact veils. Use mushrooms in salads and omelettes, sautéed with herbs, sliced and dipped in acidulated water along with dips for parties. Keep them refrigerated in a paper bag for up to five days.

Crimini mushrooms are brown to brownish, are the same shape as white mushrooms, but have a more intense flavour and denser texture. They taste meaty. Portobello mushrooms are fully grown crimini mushrooms with a large light tan cap. They enhance the flavour of sauces, and can be served as a side dish with any meal. You can grill or bake them, or used sliced and sautéed. Portobello mushrooms can be refrigerated for up to one week.

Oyster mushroom caps are funnel shaped; they offer a delicate taste and are velvety in texture. Oyster mushrooms are ideal to serve along with meat dishes, pastas, eggs, and vegetables stewed in chicken stock. They also enhance seafood and pork dishes. Refrigerate for up to five days.

Shiitake mushrooms are tan to dark brown in colour with an open veil and tan gills. They are soft; taste woodsy with a meaty flavour. Shiitake mushrooms are best for stir-frying or sautéing. Add them to poultry, meat, or pastas. They go best with Asian specialties, pastas, or rice recipes. Refrigerate for up to eight days.

Enoki mushrooms have long, slender, white stems with tiny caps. They are mild, delicate, with a slightly crunchy texture. May be eaten raw, or cooked. Enoki mushrooms are excellent for salads, sandwiches, soups, stir-fries, and as plate decorations to add eye appeal to dishes. They are generally used in Asian cuisines and as appealing garnishes.

The mild flavoured maitake ( hen-of-the-wood) mushrooms originated in jaan and now also grown in the U.S.A. They taste nutty and are best sautéed and can enhance sauces.

King mushrooms have a light tan cap with a thick white stem. They taste woodsy, with a chewy stem. You can sauté, or stir-fry or grill them, and serve as side dishes, or add to risottos. Morels, these honeycombed wild mushrooms, grow best in the wild alongside with fiddleheads and ramps. They must be harvested, are seasonal, and cost more but taste delicious with an intense aftertaste.

Foragers sell them to restaurants or in farmers’ markets. Buy only slightly moist, firm, and woodsy-smelling chanterelles. Refrigerate for up to three days.

Porcini (cep) mushrooms grow in North European countries, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand. They taste nutty, and are slightly meaty in texture. In the mouth they offer intense flavours and appealing texture. They can be dried or canned. Porcini mushrooms taste best in soups, sauces, or when blended into pastas or risottos for additional taste dimensions.

Chanterreles (pfifferling in German, girolle in French, or golden chanterelles) taste fruity with aromas of apricots and possess mild peppery flavours. In Bhutan, a version of chanterelles is often used for stir-frying and curried dishes. Best to sauté chanterelles in butter, or use in sauces or stir-fry. Chanterelles are available dried or frozen.

Morels (morchel in German) There are many morel species. Generally, they grow under the shade of deciduous trees (ash, sycamore, elm) and old and decaying apple. They grow wild and are often sought by mushroom hunters. Morels are available dried or frozen. Dried morels should be thoroughly washed and checked before cooking. Never eat morels raw, as they contain traces of hydrazine toxins, which disappear with intense heat application. Some people experience digestive problems even after eating cooked morels, but only in combination with alcoholic beverages. Fresh morels taste best sautéed in butter, with a sprinkling of sea salt and few grinds of pepper. They are often used in sauces for beef specialties, soups, and pastas.

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