April rainfall and spring temperature is ideal mushroom growing weather. Literally overnight, chanterelles, morels porcinis, lobsters, hen of the woods and parasols pop their heads out of mossy, moist forest ground. Still more wild mushrooms grow on tree stumps and logs. It’s a pity that such mushrooms become more and more depleted and the price inches upward every year to a point that they are not affordable unless you’re preparing a deep pocket dinner. Demand is particularly fierce in a city like New York where many chefs want to cook with them. I used to have wild mushroom hunters come to the restaurant that usually walked in from the street without an appointment. They would sell their fresh mushroom goods amongst other sought after treasures such as wild berries, ramps, and fiddle-head-ferns and other finds. They were never interested in revealing the location where they picked their goods. It’s kept a secret like the Holy Grail. Many pick in the Northern areas and come from when you wandered in the woods and coming back with a load of mushrooms close to the city.
If you like mushrooms there are great advances in the world of cultivated mushrooms like Immaculate white button mushroom, sleek shitake, fat portobello, the porcini look alike cremini and silvery oyster mushrooms are just a few. While they might not be as flavorful compared to the wild forest mushrooms, with the right cooking technique you’ll be able to produce delicious, tasty mushroom meals.
Cultivated mushrooms are often grown on table-like
constructions on composted/sand matter. They grow best in a dark, cool (50 - 60
degrees Fahrenheit) cellar-like environment where it is humid and moist –
that’s how they grow the fastest.
This is the preferred cooking method for mushrooms since they consist mainly of water – around 90%. It is best to use a non-stick pan. I suggest working in small batches so that the individual mushroom gets enough roasting surface and cooks evenly - this creates tasty mushroom morsels.
Tips for tasty
The following cooking tips are mushroom finishing steps. In my household we use a typical 8-inch non-stick sauté-pan for mushroom cooking which you can also use for omelets, scrambled eggs, roasting nuts, toasting spices, searing crispy skin-on fish and so forth.
I use salt and pepper as base seasoning in the following preparations:
- Peel and slice one clove of garlic. Sauté mushrooms - once they are browned, switch heat setting to low, add the garlic and cook for one minute.
- Switch heat setting to low at the very end of the sautéing process, add minced shallots and chopped thyme leaves, add ½ tablespoon of butter and cook for another minute. These mushrooms are terrific over grilled meats and fish.
- Season the cooked mushroom with a dash of light soy sauce, which boosts the natural umami flavor. Toss with 1 tablespoon of freshly chopped Italian parsley. The soy sauce kissed mushrooms are terrific in salads. Let them cool to room temperature before tossing them into the salad.
Sautee the mushrooms, once they are cooked and take-on
a brown-roasted color, add ½ cup of unsweetened nut milk e.g. almond, hazelnut,
cashew milk – this will enhance the natural nuttiness of the mushrooms. For a
decadent meal use heavy cream instead of the nut milk. Cook the mixture for two
minutes on medium heat setting. Use the mushrooms as a base in pasta dishes or
serve it alongside roasted meats.