Ah, mushrooms. Not quite animal, vegetable or mineral, but something in between: A mushroom, which means they are forever doomed to dad jokes ("What a joker!" "There's a mushroom among us!").
They are also one of the more spotty foods on the market.
It can be a texture. A flavoring thing. Or something about how some mushrooms thrive on decaying or dead stuff. (Pretty much everything you buy is cultivated by breeders in controlled environments).
The biggest hang in terms of food? "If someone has eaten badly for a long time, he will blame the ingredient," says journalist Eugenia Bone, author of "Mycophilia: Revelations from the Weird World of Mushrooms." "No ingredient has suffered more than the fungus."
To avoid this sad situation, here are three helpful tips on how to cook mushrooms.
Expand your reach. Cooking with more exotic varieties adds "a lot more flavor," says David King, owner of King Mushrooms, who sells a great selection of mushrooms in the farmers markets of Washington. There are many cool-looking and imaginative named varieties – king counts lion's mane, pioppini and chickens from the forest to his stores – but even if you can not get these hands on, you can improve your mushrooms without going anywhere but your neighborhood grocery ,
Take, for example, shiitake, which is now widely available and gives a smoky, earthy taste. "It's a really good thing if you're looking for something that's a step away from a button mushroom," says King. Oyster mushrooms are another option you might find in the supermarket, as is Portobello, which is essentially an adult mushroom that can grow longer.
In "The Mushroom Lover's Mushroom Cookbook," Amy Farges recommends familiarizing yourself with new varieties by trying them one at a time and using white mushrooms in some of your favorite recipes.
Think about how you want to use it. Check which variety you buy. Fleshy, dense types like Shiitake, Portobello, and Royal Trumpets can withstand the heat very well, says Bone. You must be careful and use less heat with more sensitive species like Enoki, Oyster and Maitake.
Farges says fleshy, solid mushrooms are great for grilling and frying. Medium and quite firm (boletus, chanterelles) are still a bit juicy and can keep their shape in soup roast and stews. She and Bone recommend salvaging sensitive varieties to suck them quickly.
It is important that mushrooms are mostly water. In most preparations, you want to ablate this water to concentrate the aromas and prevent the bowl from being washed off. Roasting works for this purpose and roasting too. Avoid pushing them into a pan or pan as this will prevent the water from evaporating and the mushrooms from fuming.
If you plan to eat raw mushrooms, pay close attention, because not all varieties, including morels, should be eaten uncooked, says Bone.
Make her shine. What you do not want to do with mushrooms is that you lose their unique texture and umami flavor in a dish where they are mixed under a pile of vegetables or overpowered by competing aromas. "They are best when they are the star," says Bone. Thyme, eggs, cream and garlic are all complementary ingredients.
Bone says it's often helpful to treat mushrooms like meat when it comes to cooking, whether it's barbecues, roasts or stews. "They have that protein in them that makes them look like meat," she says. "They are closer to the tree of life than plants."
One of the best and easiest ways to appreciate mushrooms is simply to fry them and not to shy away from browning them. "I really like my mushrooms a bit crunchy around the edges," says King. He likes to cut a variety and throw it with olive oil on a tin pan.
Roasted and sautéed mushrooms, especially when cooked with garlic and herbs, are a simple but powerful topping for toast, pasta or risotto. You can even stand alone as a side.
Bone also likes to fry mushrooms until they are caramelized, but she brings them to the next level with garlic, thyme, olive oil, lemon zest, vinegar and pepper. She then keeps the preserved mixture in a sterilized jar to use in various dishes throughout the week. She also recommends tasting Duxelles, which sounds unusual, but is just a mix of finely chopped mushrooms with shallots and herbs. Try on toast, with tangled eggs or as a meat filling (a la beef Wellington) or ravioli.
Almost everyone will find it hard to resist stuffed mushrooms stuffed with cheese and bread crumbs or whatever you can imagine. Soups and stews are another way to highlight mushrooms. King sells a very popular Hungarian mushroom soup, which is worth a dozen stock pots with a mix of mushrooms bred by him.
These are just a few ways to increase your appreciation for mushrooms. "They are very versatile," says King.
Now a few recipes from our archives to help you apply these tips:
Beer fried mushrooms. Mushrooms are like little sponges when it comes to absorbing aromas. Beer, garlic and herbs are especially effective here.
Mushroom flatbread. This quick, casual treatment is perfect for a dinner a week.
Shiitake chips Eat this as a snack or use it as a crunchy side dish.
Portobello filled with caramelized onions and Manchego. Meet your new party.
Grilled King Oyster Mushroom and Poblano Sandwich. Royal oyster mushrooms hold both the grill and a full sandwich.
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