Mushrooms A Special Topic

Because of the great interest today in exotic mushrooms, and because eating some poisonous species of wild mushrooms can be fatal, it is important for the cook to be familiar with at least the most popular varieties of exotic mushrooms, both cultivated and wild.

Although hundreds of mushroom varieties are edible, until recently only the common cultivated button mushroom was used with any frequency in most commercial kitchens. Now, however, many varieties are available. Some of these mushrooms, especially the wild ones, are expensive, but the demand always seems to exceed the supply.


Figure 16.17 Peel rutabagas and turnips deeply enough to remove the full thickness of skin, as pointed out in this photograph.

Strictly speaking, the term wild should be used only for those mushrooms that are not cultivated but that are hunted and gathered in the wild. In the kitchen and on menus, however, exotic cultivated varieties, such as shiitakes, are often referred to as wild mushrooms because they are seen as rare and unusual, like true wild mushrooms, and they are generally more flavorful than the button mushroom.

One important advantage of cultivated exotic mushrooms is that they are available all year, while certain wild mushrooms may be in season for only a few weeks annually.

Cultivated Exotic Mushrooms

1. Shiitake.

Sometimes known as Black Forest mushroom or golden oak mushroom, the shiitake is also available in dried form as Chinese black mushroom.The fresh mushroom is golden brown to dark brown. It has a firm, fleshy texture and a broad, dome-shaped cap with creamy white gills.The stem is rather tough, so it is trimmed off and chopped fine or used in stocks.

2. Oyster mushroom.

Also called pleurotte, it is a light tan or cream-colored fan-shaped mushroom with a short stem at the side.Tender,with delicate flavor,it is best prepared simply so its mild flavor is not overwhelmed by stronger-tasting ingredients. (Note: The name oyster refers to the shape of the mushroom, not its taste.)

3. Enoki mushroom.

Also called enokitake or enokidake, this mushroom has a tiny white cap on a long, slender stem, and grows in clusters or bunches that are attached at the base.The base is trimmed off before use. The enoki mushroom has a crisp texture and a fruity, slightly acidic but sweet flavor. It is often used raw (for example, in salads or as garnish) or in clear soups.When used in cooked dishes, it should be added in the last few minutes so as not to be overcooked.

4. Cremini mushroom.

The cremini is a variety of the common cultivated button mushroom, but it has a brown or tan skin. It may have a slightly more robust flavor than white cultivated mushrooms.

5. Portobello mushroom.

This is a mature cremini whose cap has opened and spread into a broad, flat disk. It may be 6 inches (15 cm) or more across. Portobello (note the correct spelling) are often grilled, brushed with olive oil, and served plain as a first course.

Wild Mushrooms

Of the many varieties of edible wild mushrooms, those described here are among the most prized as well as the most likely to be found on menus.As a rule, they are expensive and of limited availability.

Wild mushrooms should be carefully examined for spoilage and insect infestation. Cut away any damaged parts.

The four varieties described here are also available dried (see p. 538). Dried mushrooms have a high price per pound but are more economical to use than fresh wild mushrooms because they are equivalent to about 7 or 8 times their weight of fresh mushrooms. In addition, they have a more intense, concentrated flavor, so a little goes a long way.

Caution: Never eat any wild mushroom that has not been identified by an expert. Many mushrooms are poisonous, and some are deadly. Many species are difficult to identify, and some poisonous varieties resemble edible ones.

1. Morel.

Several varieties exist, including black, golden, and nearly white.The morel is shaped somewhat like a conical sponge, with a pitted surface, on a smooth stem. It is completely hollow.The most prized of spring mushrooms,it is usually sautéed in butter or cooked in a sauce and is especially good with cream.

2. Bolete.

Other names for this mushroom include cep, cèpe (sepp;the French term),porcino (por chee no; the Italian term; the plural isporcini [por chee nee]), and steinpilz

Cremini mushrooms

(shtine pilts; the German term). It is a brown-capped mushroom with a light-colored, bulbous stem.The interior flesh is creamy white.The underside of the cap has no gills but many tiny pores.With a meaty but smooth texture and rich, earthy flavor,it is often sauteed or braised with garlic and olive oil or butter. It is available late summer to fall.

3. Chanterelle.

Also called girolle, the chanterelle is yellow to orange in color and shaped like an umbrella that has turned inside out.The underside of the cone-shaped cap has ridges instead of gills. It has a rich, woodsy aroma and flavor and is best cooked simply, such as sauteed in butter, perhaps with garlic. It is available summer and fall.

4. Black trumpet.

This mushroom is closely related to the chanterelle but is black in color and has much thinner flesh. It is also called black chanterelle, horn of plenty, and trompette de la mort (French name,meaning "trumpet of death," so called because of its black color). In spite of this French name, it is edible and delicious.

Continue reading here: Processed Vegetables

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