TYPES OF MUSHROOMS
Flavor: The humble button, or white, mushroom may be unpopular among top chefs (especially snooty Frenchmen), “but button mushrooms do have their redeeming qualities,” says Amy Farges, author of The Mushroom Lover’s Mushroom Cookbook and Primer. “They’re juicy and tasty, and they’re inexpensive, with a flavor that’s only mildly mushroomy.”
Prep: You can skewer and grill them and serve over chicken or steak. You can also mix white mushrooms with the more expensive mushrooms presented here to “extend” them.
Flavor: The large caps are firm, and their texture, when cooked, is meaty yet buttery soft. The taste is reminiscent of beef hot off the grill.
Prep: You can use portobellos in place of meat; put one on a bun like you would a burger. Brush olive oil on both sides of the cap, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and place chopped garlic inside. Roast or grill with the gill side up, then flip after 10 to 15 minutes and cook through.
Flavor: A mild seafood taste, hence the name.
Prep: Their texture hold ups during lengthy cooking times, so try them in stews. Farges says oyster mushrooms are also great as a quick sauté. No matter what dish you add them to, they taste better with a little butter than they do coated with olive oil (notice the words ‘a little’.)
Flavor: Earthy and piney, with a low water content so the flavor is concentrated.
Prep: Shiitakes go with everything, from seafood to vegetables to red meat. Try roasting them in a spray-coated roasting pan for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Toss on a little salt after roasting and add to pasta, polenta, pizza and omelets.
Flavor: Mild, with an appealing crunchy texture and vaguely fruity taste. They don’t have the same earthy flavor of other mushrooms.
Prep: Try them raw as crudités (that’s French for “no cooking required”) with lemon and sea salt. You can also use them to add crunch to soups or stir-fries.
Flavor: “Chanterelles have kind of an apricot nuance,” says Farges. They have a medium texture that roasts or sautés well.
Prep: Sauté them in olive oil (no more than two teaspoons) with garlic and onions, and serve with sweet meats such as pork loin or ham. Chanterelles also go well in a stuffing with pecans and apricots.
Flavor: Rich and woodsy. Go well with all sorts of foods.
Prep: Roast the big caps the same way as a portobello, or dice and cook with potatoes and onions. They’re also great raw in salads.
Flavor: “Morels have a deep, decaying-leaves flavor,” says Farges. (It’s better than it sounds.) “They taste like the ground they come out of. It’s a nice, clean, undistracted flavor.”
Prep: You must cook morels, as they can be toxic when raw. Morels have little crevices that seem just made for trapping cream, so they pair up well with (nonfat) cream sauces. Like oyster mushrooms, morels taste better in a small amount of butter than in olive oil, but again, don’t overdo it.
Flavor: Sweet, pungent and musky, occasionally with chocolate undertones.
Prep: Truffles can be shaved and put into a sauce, under the skin of roasting chicken, or into a plate of eggs. The flavor is strong, so you don’t need very much of these pricey beauties. For example, try storing uncracked eggs with truffles for a few days, then scramble the eggs. The potent taste of the truffles actually permeates the eggshells.