Magical Mushrooms: How to Use Fresh and Dried ‘Shrooms for Very Big Flavor

Steve fills us in on what to do with those cool, gorgeous porcini, cremini, chanterelles, and oysters; and why good cooks ought never be caught without dried ‘shrooms on hand.

The Beauty of Wild, Fresh Mushrooms

Never wash a mushroom. Wipe away any impurity with a cloth or a brush. Cut off the stem ends if they are too tough. But never wash a mushroom.  Water will ruin a mushroom’s delicate texture. 

These are “wild-cultivated” mushrooms.  They are not harvested in the wild.  They are grown in a sterile environment under completely sterile and hygienic conditions. Fairway pioneered the development of wild-cultivated mushrooms long before any other food retailer knew such a thing existed.  We were the first food store in the country to offer mushrooms other than ordinary white buttons.  We sourced and stocked porcini (boletus edulis), oyster (pleurotus), shiitake, cremini, Portobello, hedgehog, chicken-of-the-wood, morel and chanterelle mushrooms before anyone but mycophiles knew or cared a whit about the joy of fresh sautéed wild mushrooms as a peasanty and yet elegant first course. 

We suggest sautéing whole or chunked-up mushrooms in Fairway extra-virgin olive oil with perhaps a spoonful of butter and minced garlic.  We love to serve them hot-hot right out of the pan, with a sprinkling of chopped parsley and maybe a dusting of Parmesan or some other grated cheese.

Dried Mushrooms: A Serious Cook Must-Have

The best cooks use dried mushrooms every chance they get. And they’re a cinch to employ!  Merely soak them in a cup of warm water for twenty minutes; pat them dry with a towel, leave them whole or cut them to the size you desire, and then add them to your sauce or your dish at the last moment merely in order to heat them through.

Don’t forget that the water you soaked them in is now full of potent flavor.   Simply strain it through a towel and then reduce it to about half in a high-heat pan, and add it to your recipe.  The most flavorful dried mushroom is the boletus edulis  (porcino in Italian, cepe in French, steinpilze in German).  Morels are the second most delicious and important mushroom in its dried state.  Morels should be agitated a bit in their soak-water, as those flanges tend to trap a lot of grit. 

Fairway believes that dried chanterelles serve no purpose, as they really have no flavor  in their dried state.  Fairway also believes that brined mushrooms and expensive mushrooms preserved in olive oil serve no purpose except as a cosmetic to food.  They have no flavor and their texture has been rendered unpleasantly rubbery.  Mushroom pastes and spreads, on the other hand, notably those of porcini with and without truffle, are extremely delicious.  And as for truffles, the super-costly members of the fungus family, though not considered a mushroom, Fairway advises you to ignore them unless you have chosen to splurge on them in their fresh and seasonal state.  Preserved truffles are, as with preserved mushrooms, utterly without merit.  Save your money.

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