Mushrooms often get relegated to a “side dish” role when they have every right to be the headliner of a meal. They have interesting flavors (sometimes called “umami”) that have been variously described as earthy, meaty, or savory, depending on the type of mushroom. In addition to eating them raw or using them in soups and salads, here are some different ways of enjoying them.
Ways to Use Mushrooms in Your Meals
Pickling isn’t just for cabbage or cucumber! You can pickle common button mushrooms as well as more exotic ones such as shiitake or chanterelle. The pickling liquid and seasonings vary depending on the recipe. The liquid usually includes wine or broth, vinegar, and olive oil. Seasonings can include onion, garlic, herbs – such as thyme, parsley, or tarragon – and spices such as whole peppercorns, bay leaf, or coriander. Some recipes simply call for the mushrooms to be boiled in the liquid for a few minutes, then chilled in the refrigerator. Others require the mushrooms to be blanched briefly, or for the spices and herbs to be stir-fried before the rest of the liquid is added. Once finished, the pickled mushrooms can be kept in the fridge for a couple of weeks. Try this as an appetizer; add it to pasta, noodles, or cooked grains; or drizzle over roasts or omelets.
- All-Vegetarian Paté or Spread
Many of us are constantly on the lookout for great spreads or dips to use on crackers, veggie sticks, or toast. Look no further: Mushroom paté is a great option when you are tired of the same old hummus or yogurt dip. While there are many recipes you can find on the Internet, choose one that features mushrooms as the main ingredient and stay away from recipes that make heavy use of cream or cream cheese. For example, the following vegan version from La Dolce Vegan: Vegan Livin’ Made Easy uses both shiitake and button mushrooms, as well as walnuts and flax seeds.
- Crumb Topping
Mushrooms add flavor and texture to the good ol’ crumb topping for fish, chicken, or other lean cuts of meat that can dry out without some protection from moisture loss in a hot oven. To create this topping, sautee chopped fresh mushrooms with onions, garlic, and some herbs (such as thyme) for a few minutes, then remove from heat and combine this mixture with a few spoonfuls of bread crumbs. Use this to top the item of your choice and bake in the oven as usual.
- Flavorful Rub or Marinade
This is a way of using dried mushrooms that really adds taste to your grilled items. In particular, dried porcini mushrooms (often available in little bags at the grocery store) add an intense kick of flavor. You can keep it simple and use only the ground porcini “dust” with salt and pepper, or include a few herbs/spices depending on what cuisine you are taking your inspiration from. The resulting dry mixture can be patted on meat or extra firm tofu before grilling. Alternatively, add some olive oil to the ground porcini and herbs mixture to form a paste that you can then smear on the meat before grilling.
- Meat Extender or Replacer
A quick and easy way to use mushrooms is to chop them up, sautee them with some onions, and then add the resulting mixture to your ground meat. You can also go meatless by blending the mushroom mixture with beans and spices to make all-vegetarian burger patties.
The Bottom Line
Those of us who love mushrooms often find it hard to relate to those who dislike mushrooms. With these new ways of preparing mushrooms, you may find ways of gently introducing the taste and eventually convert some of your family members and friends into mushroom fans!