Flavors and Textures:
The Challenge of Cooking with Wild Mushrooms
from the Black Dog Cafe
Each variety of wild mushroom has it’s own distinctive characteristics. Below, I’ve outlined a few of the varieties we have been using in the WMMA Workshops and banquets, focusing on preparation and cooking qualities of each species.
AGARICUS- (common names are Portobello, Crimini, button, horse or meadow mushroom)
Preparation: Wipe with a damp cloth and cut off any dirt at the base of the stem.
Storing: Eat Agaricus fresh. Store them in paper bags or wax paper in the crisper drawer of the fridge, for up to 3 to 4 days. May be sauteed in butter or oil and frozen.
Flavor and Texture: A firm and sturdy mushroom it tastes like a very strong store bought mushroom. Some varieties have a hint of anise.
Cooking suggestions: Stuffings, soups, cream sauces, grilled or broiled as a substantial salad (or burger!), or just fried in butter with some shallots or garlic and tossed or used as a topping for just about anything.
CHANTERELLE- (no common name needed for this beauty!) There are several species of this group of delightful edibles. Found around the globe. A mushroom that is similar in color, texture and flavor is the sweet tooth, Hydnum repandum.
Preparation: Wipe the caps with a damp cloth and brush the dirt out of the gills and cut off the dirty bases.
Storing: Should be eaten fresh, they can be dried but they lose a lot of their flavor and texture. Keep well in the crisper drawer in paper bags or wax paper for about a week. Large quantities may be sauteed in butter and frozen for long term storage.
Flavor and Texture: Firm but delicate texture, they have a subtle butter and fruity flavor.
Cooking Suggestions: Quiche or omelets (or any egg dish), cream sauces, pair with fowl wild or domestic, and they’re also great simply sauteed in butter with garlic and a little salt. Also, sherry or cognac paired with the chanterelle creates a dish fit for royalty.
SHAGGY MANE or INKY CAP- know the difference!
Preparation: They are extremely fragile and should be cooked as soon as possible after picking, since they will disintegrate within a couple of hours after picking. Cut off the base of the stem and brush off the caps to remove any dirt.
Storing: A tricky mushroom to preserve, but if you completely submerge them in brine they will keep for up to 48 hours then use them.For long term storage, cook them in butter or oil and freeze them.
Flavor and Texture: They have a mild, pleasant flavor and because it loses most of its water weight when cooked it has a very soft texture.
Cooking Suggestions: Dry sauteing is the best with Shaggies: add a Tbs. or so of water to a skillet and cook the cut up shaggies until they’ve released their water (5-10 min), drain the skillet and then add butter, salt, pepper, garlic and other spices. Egg dishes, topping for
fish dishes, served as an appetizer on toast, or in a cream sauce for pasta or a chicken dish.
Coprinus comatus photos
TRUFFLES: There are many meanings to “truffle” but basically they are Fungi which form spore bodies underground. More specifically, chefs and Gourmets refer to “true” and “false” truffles. True is taken to mean members of the genus Tuber, including the Italian white truffle and the French black Truffle.
Preparation and Storage: Please, don’t clean truffles until you’re going to use them. You can store truffles for up to 1 week in an air tight container of uncooked white rice, or layered with damp paper towels in your fridge. OR in your freezer in a zip-lock bag indefinitely, but you will lose texture, and the cooking time in sauces should be shortened, so add them at the end of preparation, or shave them over dishes before they melt completely.
Making truffle butter by whirring cleaned truffles in a blender with soft butter, then freezing it keeps the texture and flavor best.
Flavor and Texture: Truffles have a ” shave me” type of texture, as thatis the way a lot of recipes use them ( meaning …they have a wonderful firm texture that’s perfect for slivering too!) How to describe truffle flavor\aroma? It’s like a slice of heaven…sensual and musky…chocolate and earthy, each individual species has its own volatile flavors and aromas.
Cooking Suggestions: If you put raw truffles in an air tight container with either butter or eggs over night in the fridge, then cook up the eggs with the shaved truffles or use the truffle butter in a recipe (or just spread on bread), then you will understand what all the fuss is about! Also…cream sauce over pasta, placed slivered truffle under skin of fowl and let sit in fridge 24 hours then stuff with wild mushroom stuffing and bake, also good with mild seafood, especially scallops in a casserole dish. Note: Truffles lose their flavor if cooked too long (over 3 min), so add them at the end of cooking time or infuse their flavor into the food as described above.
Truffles article & photos
Preparation: wipe off with damp cloth and cut off base of stem.
Storing: Do not dry, as it will lose all its flavor. Keeps firm about 8-10 days in paper bag or wax paper in the crisper drawer of your fridge or cook with butter or oil and freeze.
Flavor and Texture: In Japan, the Matsutake is considered a great delicacy and is so aromatic a single mushroom is used to flavor 30 quarts of cooked rice! It has a very solid almost fibrous type of mushroom
texture, with a definitely exotic cinnamon/pine flavor. Cooking Suggestions: Great with meats and chicken, in casseroles, soups, used for stuffed mushroom recipes, and, of course, in rice dishes. Baste with olive oil and grill. .Big Hint: as with truffles, be careful not to cook too long as the aromatic intensity decreases with cooking time. Matustake photos & recipes
ROZITES- (common name; Gypsy or chicken of the woods)
Preparation: Wipe caps with damp cloth; trim stems when collecting to prevent dirt and duff from collecting in the gills.
Storing: Can be dried (see notes next paragraph) but lose some texture. Saute in butter or oil and freeze to preserve texture. Best when used fresh, 5-7 days in fridge in paper bag or wax paper.
Flavor and Texture: Mild and nutty, a nice musky aroma. Texture remains toothsome after cooking.
Cooking Suggestions: Outstanding on its own, the Gypsy is very versatile and goes well with chicken, seafood, stirfry, or over toast points as an appetizer. Personally, just saute in butter and eat it!
Preparation: Do Not Wash!! It’s so easy to just brush them off and call it a day. Because a lot of the flavor of the Morel is in the spores, washing them when they’re fresh is literally throwing their flavor down the drain! …BUT, if you’re re-hydrating them, using the morel soaking liquid in which ever recipe imparts all that wonderful flavor (or… save the liquid in the fridge for another use.)
Storing: Dry Dry Dry ….the morel is the perfect dried mushroom, not only because it re-hydrates so easily, but because it’s re-hydrating liquid is such an excellent extract. Or if you want to keep them fresh in the fridge, they’ll remain firm for about 10 days in crisper in paper bags or wax paper.
Flavor and Texture: Because the Morel is “hollow” inside it feels a little brittle when fresh and after cooking becomes soft and chewy. Earthy, nutty, intense flavor..I suppose that’s why it’s called King of the wild mushrooms!
Cooking Suggestions: Let’s see…what doesn’t a Morel go with?
Morel Recipes & Photos
PLEUROTUS: the Oyster Mushroom
Preparation: Wipe with a damp cloth to remove any dirt and in extreme cases (bug city) you may want to actually wash them…no harm done.
Storing: Slice and dry or saute in butter or oil and freeze. They’ll keep in the fridge in paper bags or wax paper for about 10 days.
Flavor and Texture: They have a wonderfully firm and somewhat chewy texture. Their flavor is somewhat mild, which makes them suitable for almost any recipe.
Cooking Suggestions: It’s the one and only mushroom I will batter and fry because it can hold up to that type of treatment with dignity and, man, is it good! Also soups, stews, sauteed with Madeira and cream and stuffed into puff pastry shells, poach them in wine for chicken or fish dishes and they’re great grilled too!
Oyster mushroom photos
SHIITAKE (Black Forest mushroom)
Preparation: Wipe with a damp cloth and remove the tough stems.
Storing: They are wonderful dried mushrooms and as their flavor tends to be more concentrated when they’re dried, 4 or 5 caps goes a long way in flavoring a recipe.
Flavor and Texture: Their texture is a lot like a store bought mushroom, but they have an intense earthy, smokey and slightly peppery flavor that lends itself to using with strong spices.
Cooking Suggestions: Fresh Shiitake when sauteed with butter or oil, tends to absorb all the fat and become very greasy. Try them in Tempura vegetables, stuff and bake them, soups, stir fries, with chicken or fish, or blanched quickly and tossed in a salad.
MARASMIUS ( Fairy ring or scotch bonnet mushroom)
Preparation: You can wash them, but since they’re growing in grass all you usually need to do is pick off any stray blades of grass. Word of
Caution: Now this may just be a personal thing, BUT…if you find Marasmius in one of those beautiful (?) weed free lawns, I wouldn’t eat it, reason being that the mushroom absorbs all those wonderful chemicals that are killing the dandelions and if you eat it, you are too.
Storing: Awesome dried..you don’t even have to slice ‘em, just toss on a screen in the sun or use a food dryer. They’ll last for up to 2 weeks in the fridge and they’re the only mushroom that can be stored successfully fresh in a plastic bag!
Flavor and Texture: Has a kind of a garlicky hay type of flavor/smell and because they’re small and used whole their texture is chewy, yet soft.
Cooking Suggestions: Great in soups, stews, casseroles, sauces over meat, chicken and fish, omelets, or used to stuff other mushrooms!
Marasmius oreades photos
Preparation: Check specimens for firmness, drop larvae infested Units in freezer immediately. Wipe cap and peel base to check for damage
Storage: for hours or days in the fridge, but the sooner the better. They are easily dried after slicing. The sponge is powdered and used to thicken soups and sauces. The older dried boletes are more pungent and wins taste tests over their younger fungal fruits.
Flavor and Texture: Roses and walnuts, fragrant and savory, earthy, buttery, nutty, and even meaty describe this beautiful fungus. It is firm but yielding to the palate, toothsome and comforting, smooth and not fibrous.
Cooking Suggestions: Fresh olive oil-basted slices on the grill. Cream soups alone or with other mushrooms, on meats or potato fry, one of the most prized edibles in Europe; thousands of recipes
Boletus edulis photos
TO DRY OR NOT TO DRY…
Marasmius, Morel, Oyster, Boletus, Agaricus, Macrolepiota:
These guys rehydrate to the consistency of fresh and their flavor is incredible. And when it comes to Suillus, I to love slice them very thin, and salt them and sun dry them into mushroom “potato chips”! To dry the mushrooms: slice them into thin strips and place them on a screen in the sun or in a food dryer until dry ( for morels and marasmius, because they are compact and small, you can leave them whole.)
FOR LONG TERM STORAGE be sure to dry all mushrooms for at least one hour at 140 degrees F in order to kill any insect eggs. Species not recommended for drying, although some people claim to have done it: Puffballs, Shaggy Manes, Chanterelles, Sulfur shelf, Lobster, Russula
WHAT DO I DO WITH WHAT I DRIED?
Rehydration: It’s the key to the culinary delight coming your way. As a general rule mushrooms rehydrate 4 times their dried up weight( so..if you need 4 ounces of fresh shrooms, you need 1 ounce of dried). The only species I’m acquainted with that rehydrates more than this ratio is Marasmius and it tends to be more in the vicinity of almost 5 times their dried weight. Rehydrated mushrooms are up to twice as strong as an equal weight of fresh mushrooms, depending on species. Put your dried mushrooms in a bowl with just enough warm water to cover them and wait…between 10 and 30 minutes depending on the species.
Mushroom Liquid: DON’T THROW IT AWAY!! After the mushrooms have soaked, remove from bowl with slotted spoon and with another spoon pressed against it, drain the mushrooms and place into a separate
bowl. Even if the recipe your using doesn’t call for water or “stock” save the soaking liquid from the mushrooms for soups, sauces, casseroles, or whatever takes your fancy! Note: When using soaking liquid, leave the gritty stuff that collects on the bottom of the bowl for your compost pile. When Rehydrating Morels, place 2 cups dry morels in a 1 qt plastic jar With a lid, spray quickly with water from your sinkside sprayer, shake a bit, and spray again until some water collects at the bottom. This method uses a minimum of water and keeps flavor in the morels.
EATING WILD MUSHROOMS RAW?
In general, eating raw wild mushrooms is discouraged, and if you do, please use caution and eat a little bit to see what your reaction is. People who are prone to allergies should use major caution and in my opinion (for what it’s worth!), abstain altogether. Below, I’ve listed the edible do’s and dont’s for some common species.
Morels? Don’t Even Think About It! they’ll make you very sick and very unhappy.
Boletes and Suillus can be extremely depressing because they break down vitamin B (thiamine) in your system Be EXTREMELY careful whenever eating fungi that have been grown on manure, as feces can be a source of hepatitis and other viral and bacterial infection.
Why Bother When They’re So Much Better Cooked? We have reliable reports of people eating the following common edibles raw.
The following are used extensively in Oriental cooking, many times served raw in salads and side dishes.
Auricularia (tree ear)
Enoki (winter mushroom)
Lyophllum (Shimeji or fried chicken mushroom)
Caesar’s Amanita is served raw dressed with olive oil. It is superb.
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© The Western Montana Mycological Association