Instead of handing you the fish, I'll reveal some pointers that changed my opinion of cooking with wild mushrooms. Ready? Here we go:
- When buying fresh mushrooms, purchase those that look alive. This means relatively clean, no holes, blemishes, mold or tears. The stem and cap should be fully intact.
- Never wash wild mushrooms. This is not as gross as it sounds. Wipe them down with a towel to remove any grit. Washing them will result in mushy mushrooms, and those are no fun to eat.
- Cut the bottom portion of the stem before cooking - not the whole stem. I usually trim about quarter inch.
- Cook on high heat for about two minutes. This will vary depending on the size of the 'shrooms, but if you overcook them, they'll turn into a slimy mess. Keep reading for more tips...
Wild mushrooms come in many shapes and sizes, and they all have a unique, identifiable character. The mushrooms above are called Nameko, and they reign from Japan where you'll find them in Miso soup. Although chefs around here put them in Japanese dishes, I use them in everything. Their mild, earthy flavor complements poultry nicely, and adds great texture to pasta. Nameko's unique character actually is their texture, which is slimy, in a good way. Try them with asparagus, string beans or broccoli to get a sense of how to use their texture to your advantage.
These colossal fungi are California butter mushrooms from Monterey Market. I haven't tried them yet, but they're next on my list.
When experimenting with wild mushrooms, I suggest preparing a simple dish to start, where the mushrooms are at the forefront. This will help you get to know the particular mushroom before adding other ingredients. Try sauteing it with salt, pepper and finishing with fresh herbs. Basil and mint are my top choices. Here's how I prepared the mushrooms above:
Nameko mushrooms, rubbed clean with a towel
Whole wheat baguette, toasted
Salt and pepper
Heat up a cast iron pan. Add one twirl of olive oil. When hot but not smoking, add the mushrooms, salt and pepper. Toss for two minutes. Add two chopped basil leaves.
Drizzle olive oil on toasted bread and top with the mushrooms. Garnish with extra basil.
Try this simple recipe with any wild mushroom to see if you enjoy its flavor. Only then can you add it to another dish and know what to expect. Doesn't that beat following a recipe blindly?