Mostly about food, this blog is just a place for me to throw things that are of interest to me. I appreciate you taking the time to stop by an look around. This represents just some of the stops on the various pathways that this amateur home cook finds himself.

You may find that these foods tend toward protein and away from carbohydrates - this is due to diabetic issues, so I try to only sparingly use carbs, and good ones at that. Of course, sometimes I forget....

Feel free to drop me a line with any suggestions or just to let me know what you think. Thanks!

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I want to thank you for the time that you spend here, and hope that you can find useful things here.

Hagoonee'


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Beginning Mushrooms 101

You do have a choice - there is such a thing as eating good mushrooms and eating really poor mushrooms. I am no mycologist, and far from being an expert, but I have learned a few things about cooking with mushrooms that I don’t often see anywhere, so here goes. While this all works for the common button or Cremini mushrooms most often used, it may not apply to a lot of the more exotics, like morel, chantarelle, oyster or shiitake mushrooms.

The advice I see most often about cooking mushrooms is to put them in a pan with oil or butter, sliced or whole, and let them cook until they are all soft and have shrunk up a bit. Sautéeing mushrooms like this produces repeatable results - soft, slimy slippery and pretty tasteless little things that have shrunk up into little greasy lumps. Yet this is the way we are all shown to do this. Why? It’s fast and easy.

You don’t need to give away all the taste in your mushrooms just to have them cooked, though. Although doing them this way takes a few extra minutes, the effort will pay off in big mushroom flavor and aroma, and still give you something big enough to bite into. First of all, you should select mushrooms that are of a decent size. Getting them 2"-3" or so is the perfect size for what we are going to do. You usually not only get a better price buying mushrooms out of the bulk bin as opposed to those handy pre-packaged plastic bins, but you get to pick out exactly the ones you want, for both size and freshness.

All mushrooms are not the same as they age. Look at the picture below, for example. Most often, the underside of mushrooms look like the one on the left. Notice that the gills are clearly visible between the mushroom cap and the stem. The one on the right shows that the veil or 'vellum' still in place, covering the gills The veil is the tissue that connects the stem and the cap before the gills are exposed and the fruiting body develops. While present in the common white or button and Cremini mushrooms, it is not present on all varieties. Anyway, if present, it is proof that the mushrooms are fresher than those with exposed gills.


Next, cut́ them at least 1/2" to 3/4" thick. I know that seems like a lot, but the mushrooms will shrink by about half while they cook.


Here they are, all ready to go:


Heat a 12" skillet over medium heat. Lay the mushroom slices out in a single layer in the bottom, it's okay if they touch but they shouldn't overlap.


Now comes the hard part - leave them alone. Depending on your stove, it may be 5 or 10 minutes before you need to flip them. You can tell when most of them look like the picture below. Notice the good quantity of liquid that has escaped from the slices. This water, along with what has already evaporated, leaves behind all the flavor, concentrating it in the now smaller slices.


Flip them over, and let them continue to cook undisturbed. Now is when you will see them shrink down. When ready, you'll see that they are quite a bit smaller than when raw, but still of a good size. If you sliced them thin before cooking, they would have only been paper-thin by now.


Now, all of the flavor of the raw mushrooms, enhanced by heat, has been concentrated into the smaller remaining pieces. In addition, they have gained an almost meaty texture, like a nice Portobello. Give this technique a try!

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