We’re long past the days when our only choice for fresh mushrooms were the white button variety. Yet, we come back to them time and again because they are easy to use, easy to find fresh-grown in Texas, and relatively inexpensive, unlike some of the so-called wild mushrooms.
Here are a few tips on mushrooms, and three recipes for using the most commonly available fungi in the produce area: portobello, cremini and white buttons.
• Don’t soak mushrooms as they will take on water. But do wash them. A gentle rinse in cold running water will remove most of the growing matrix that sometimes clings to mushrooms. Pat them dry. Trim the stem ends if you wish. (If you want to use mushroom stems, they can be simmered in water for stock to add to soups or sauces.)
• The fresher the mushroom the better, of course. Look for firm caps that close around the gills. If you can see the gills on white and cremini mushrooms they are less fresh. Look for firm portobellos —and the gills are exposed on these large mushrooms. Some can be as wide as six inches.
• If you want to get a good, golden brown color on sliced, sautéed mushrooms, don’t crowd the slices in the sauté pan. That way they steam rather than brown, and turn grayish in color. Heat the oil so the mushrooms sizzle when they hit the pan, then turn them when they are lightly golden on one side.
• “The New Food Lover’s Companion” says to store mushrooms on a tray, in a single layer, so that cool air will circulate around them. Cover them with dampened paper towel and keep refrigerated for up to three days. Some of the sealed packages of mushrooms will keep longer than that.
Mushrooms are delicious and versatile. Use them in soups and salads, in stews and stir fries. Make a sandwich out of a grilled portobello; make a welcome side dish out of broiled button or cremini mushrooms. Or, stuff any of these, as did chef Garrett Stephens at The County Line, for a great appetizer.