Mushrooms

Mushrooms

Markets stock a variety of cultivated mushrooms, but many people prefer wild mushrooms, which are often more flavorful. Be careful when picking wild mushrooms (some species are poisonous) and always cook them thoroughly, both to release their flavors and to convert their proteins into a more usable form.


To prepare fresh mushrooms, first trim off the bottoms of the stems, then wipe them off. Don't rinse or soak them, for they'll absorb water and turn mushy when you cook them. Dried mushrooms are often excellent substitutes for fresh, though some species don't dry well. You can reconstitute dried mushrooms by soaking or simmering them. Don't throw out the soaking liquid--it can add more flavor to your sauce than the mushrooms themselves. You can also pulverize dried mushrooms with a food processor or blender, then use the mushroom powder to flavor sauces and stews.


For substitutions for mushrooms in general, click here.


Varieties:

bear's head mushroom, bearded tooth mushroom, satyr's beard mushroom
bear's head mushroom
These grow yellow and sour-tasting with age, so buy only white ones. They're best sautéed or gently boiled.
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black trumpet mushroom, black chanterelle, horn of plenty
black trumpet mushroom
This is a very choice, flavorful mushroom. Dried black trumpets are excellent, too.
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blewit mushrooms, blewitt mushrooms, blue foot mushrooms, blue-leg mushrooms
blewit mushrooms
These are prized more for their beauty than their flavor, which is pleasant but somewhat mild. Dried blewits are even less flavorful than fresh.
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cauliflower mushroom, Sparassis
cauliflower mushroom
These are very flavorful, but a bit chewy. They're good fried, or in soups or stews. Select small, young-looking heads.
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chanterelle, egg mushroom, girole, golden chanterelle, pfifferling
chanterelle
Chanterelles are a whole family of mushrooms, most of which are quite choice, but the name is most often applied to the golden chanterelle = yellow chanterelle. These yellow mushrooms are highly prized for their exquisite flavor, color, and texture. Other tasty chanterelle varieties include the yellow foot chanterelle, which is less meaty and less flavorful than other varieties, the black trumpet mushroom, and the white chanterelle, which is similar to the golden chanterelle, but lighter in color. Fresh chanterelles are best; dried or canned chanterelles are less flavorful and tend to have a rubbery texture
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chicken-of-the-woods mushroom, sulfur mushroom
chicken-of-the-woods mushroom
This got its name because it has the texture of cooked chicken. You can sauté it or, if you want to make mock chicken, simmer it in chicken stock.
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cinnamon cap mushroom, cinnamon webcap
cinnamon cap mushroom
Cinnamon cap mushrooms have a firm texture and an earthy flavor.
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clamshell mushroom, Beech Mushroom, Brown Beech Mushroom
clamshell mushroom
Varieties include the brown clamshell mushroom (left). This mushroom goes well with seafood or meats. Cook them before eating.
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cloud ear mushroom, black fungus, black Treasure, bok née, cloud ear fungus
cloud ear mushroom
It's hard to find these fresh, but dried cloud ears are an excellent substitute. Reconstitute them by soaking or simmering them in lots of water for a few hours.
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cremini mushroom, baby bella, brown mushroom, crimini mushroom
cremini mushroom
These are closely related to common white mushrooms, but they're a bit more flavorful. Large cremini mushrooms are called portobello mushrooms.
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enoki mushroom, enok, enokidake, enokitake, futu mushroom, golden mushroom
enoki mushroom
Enoki mushrooms have a delicate fruity flavor. They're usually served raw.
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hedgehog mushroom, sweet tooth mushroom, wood hedgehog
hedgehog mushroom
Hedgehog mushrooms are similar to chanterelles in color and flavor.
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huitlacoche, corn smut, cuitlacoche, huitlacoche Italian brown mushroom
huitlacoche
This is a fungus that forms black kernels on ears of corn in damp weather. It's a prized delicacy in Mexico, and tastes a bit like wild mushrooms. You can get it fresh or frozen by mail order, or canned in some Hispanic markets. WARNING: May cause contractions in pregnant women.
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lobster mushroom
lobster mushroom
These are actually white mushrooms that have been coated by a red fungus.
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maitake mushroom, hen-of-the-woods mushroom, kumotake mushroom
maitake mushroom
This Japanese mushroom is reputed to have numerous health benefits. It also has a nice, earthy flavor.
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matsutake mushroom, pine mushroom
matsutake mushroom
These are popular in Japan, but they're hard to find fresh in the United States and dried matsutakes aren't nearly as flavorful. Avoid canned matsutakes, they're even worse than dried.
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morels
morels
Morels are highly prized for their rich, earthy flavor, and also because their caps are hollow, which allows them to be stuffed. Dried morels are very flavorful, and they're an excellent substitute for fresh in sauces and stews.
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mushrooms
mushrooms
Markets stock a variety of cultivated mushrooms, but many people prefer wild mushrooms, which are often more flavorful. Be careful when picking wild mushrooms (some species are poisonous) and always cook them thoroughly, both to release their flavors and to convert their proteins into a more usable form. To prepare fresh mushrooms, first trim off the bottoms of the stems, then wipe them off. Don't rinse or soak them, for they'll absorb water and turn mushy when you cook them. Dried mushrooms are often excellent substitutes for fresh, though some species don't dry well. You can reconstitute dried mushrooms by soaking or simmering them. Don't throw out the soaking liquid--it can add more flavor to your sauce than the mushrooms themselves. You can also pulverize dried mushrooms with a food processor or blender, then use the mushroom powder to flavor sauces and stews. To learn about various varieties of mushrooms, click here.
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nameko mushroom, butterscotch mushroom, huá zi mó, opyonok, Pholiota nameko
nameko mushroom
Nameko mushrooms are hard to find fresh, but Asian markets sometimes stock cans or plastic bags of it. They have a gelatinous texture and the Japanese like to add them to miso soup.
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oyster mushroom, abalone mushroom, pleurotte, pleurotus mushroom
oyster mushroom
Oyster mushrooms are prized for their smooth texture and subtle, oyster-like flavor. They can also be grown commercially, so they're widely available and fairly inexpensive.
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pom pom mushroom, monkeys head mushroom, beard mushroom, bear's head
pom pom mushroom
The flavor of this mushroom has been likened to that of lobster and crab.
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porcini, bolete, borowik, cep, cepe, king bolete, penny bun, Polish mushroom
porcini
Porcini mushrooms are well appreciated in Europe for their meaty texture and interesting flavor. If you can find them fresh, pick the largest caps you can find (or afford). Just wipe them clean before using; if you wash them, they'll soak up the water like a sponge. Dried porcini are also excellent.
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portobello mushroom, giant cremini, portabello mushroom
portobello mushroom
These are just large cremini mushrooms, and their size (about the same as a hamburger patty) makes them perfect for grilling or roasting. They're also more flavorful than younger, smaller creminis.
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red oyster mushroom
red oyster mushroom
This beautiful mushroom, unfortunately, loses its red coloring when cooked.
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shiitake mushroom, black forest mushroom, black mushroom
shiitake mushroom
Though shiitake mushrooms are now cultivated, they have the earthiness and flavor of wild mushrooms. They're large and meaty, and they work well in stir-fries, soups, and side dishes, or as a meat substitute. Dried shiitakes are excellent, and often preferable to fresh due to their more intense flavor. Soak them in water for about thirty minutes to reconstitute them, then use the water they soaked in to enhance your sauce.
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shimeji mushroom, pioppini mushroom
shimeji mushroom
Like matsutake mushrooms, these grow on trees. They're very tasty, with a peppery flavor. They're great in stir-fries.
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straw mushrooms, paddy straw mushrooms
straw mushrooms
These are a common ingredient in Chinese stir-fries. They're hard to find fresh, but canned straw mushrooms work well and are sold in many supermarkets. Better yet, but harder to find, are dried straw mushrooms, which have a more intense flavor than canned.
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truffles
truffles
Truffles are one of the most expensive of the fungi (technically, they're not mushrooms), but they're packed with flavor. You can grate raw truffles into salads, or chop and sauté them and use them to flavor sauces. Their flavor is complex, so truffles work best in delicately flavored dishes like cream sauces. Truffles are highly perishable, so you should plan to use them within a few days after buying them. To preserve them, add slices of them to bourbon, then use the bourbon and truffle pieces to flavor sauces. Fresh truffles are often sold in containers filled with rice. Don't throw out the rice--it was put there to absorb some of the truffle's exquisite flavor.
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trumpet royale mushroom, boletus of the steppes, French horn mushroom
trumpet royale mushroom
This is a tasty, meaty mushroom.
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white chanterelle mushroom
white chanterelle mushroom
White chanterelles are very similar to golden chanterelles, except for their color and relative rarity. Fresh chanterelles are best; dried or canned chanterelles are less flavorful and tend to have a rubbery texture.
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white mushroom, button mushroom, champignon mushroom, common mushroom
white mushroom
These are the mushrooms you're most likely to find in supermarkets. They're good raw, but more flavorful if cooked.
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wood ear mushroom, black fungus, jelly ear, tree ear mushroom, woodear mushroom
wood ear mushroom
Chinese markets carry fresh or dried pieces of this tree mushroom. You're supposed to soak or simmer the dried chips until they soften, and then rinse them carefully to remove any dirt. They're not very flavorful, but they have an interesting texture and are believed to have medicinal benefits.
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yellow foot mushroom, funnel chanterelle, winter chanterelle
yellow foot mushroom
Though not as flavorful as golden chanterelles, these mushrooms work well in most chanterelle recipes.
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