It seems like a lot of people I know don’t like mushrooms. They flee from them like the plague. They’re probably traumatized from multiple experiences with terribly cooked button mushrooms, so they refuse to try them anymore. Or they might not like the texture – don’t get me started on that. It’s a shame because there are so many varieties that offer such wildly unique flavors, and everything deserves a try.
At the San Francisco farmers market I found a farmer selling unique organic mushrooms. I got some Nameko, Lion’s mane, hedgehog, black trumpet, king trumpet, oyster, and maitake mushrooms. I cooked them over the campfire when I was passing through Big Sur. I’m not exaggerating when I say that these mushrooms tasted better than bacon juice injected beef dipped in butter. I used my favorite method frying in a dry pan (explained below) with the added bonus of oak smoke from the fire.
Here are some tips on how to properly prepare mushrooms so you can convert some mushroom haters you know.
1. Pick some interesting varieties. We all know what button and crimini mushrooms taste like, so try something different. There is usually someone specializing in mushrooms at most farmers markets, and all Asian markets have a more interesting selection of dried and fresh.
2. Don’t wash them!!! Please refrain from ruining the mushrooms. They are like sponges that pickup all the water you put on them. This makes them chewy and water logged. Most come pretty clean because they don’t really pickup that much dirt – depending on how they are grown. If they do have dirt on them, simply wipe the dirt off with a damp cloth or paper towel. This is very important.
3. Dry pan fry. Try adding them to a well seasoned cast iron pan or nonstick WITHOUT oil on medium heat. Let them fry to evaporate the moisture. This will allow you to brown them a bit and even make them crispy if you like. I like to add oil and garlic after 5 minutes in the pan. If you add the oil too early the mushrooms soak it up right away.
4. Don’t overcrowd the pan. Moisture will come out of the mushrooms as they cook, so to avoid boiling them in a puddle of water, leave space so the moisture can evaporate quickly.
5. Keep it simple. I like to just add salt and pepper. Sometimes I might add creme, garlic, or butter.
6. Ultra crispy. Slice some giant trumpets ultra thin on a mandolin slicer and add them to the pan wiped with a little oil and cook them on low until they dehydrate and crisp up. This makes an epic garnish.
7. Mushrooms on toast. Toast some good bread and rub with a garlic clove cut in half. Then add the mushrooms on top and garnish with some spicy greens (I used nasturtium leaves in this photo).
8. Marinate. You can marinate even boring button mushrooms to make them interesting. I use a mixture of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, minced garlic, minced shallot, salt, and pepper. Marinate for a few hours and then saute.