To judge the quality (or freshness) of mushrooms, the best way is to slice them in half or parts. And to smell them at room temperature. Each kind has its own specific, often delicate, fragrance. It should be ‘clear’ and ‘pure’. Just like its color. Visually a mushroom may not have withered edges or be swampy or moisty. Cutting open larger truffles or ceps shows you if their affected by maggots or little snails.
As far as portioning fresh mushrooms, we usually recommend 100 to 150 grams per person (cleaned). For truffles, we recommend 10 to 30 grams and when you cook with dried mushrooms, about 20 grams per person (dried weight).
Preserving mushrooms is not easy (so consume them rapidly!). If mushrooms are júst picked, some kinds can be preserved easily for about 2 weeks. When you buy fresh mushrooms in the supermarket, they are not ‘freshly picked’ anymore and can, on average, be preserved at home for a couple of days. In the crisper compartment of your refrigerator, spread out between dry paper towel.
Industrial dried mushrooms are freeze dried. With this method of drying most of the taste, color, fragrance and texture are best preserved. Due to this, you’ll need very little dried product to get massive taste in return.
Drying mushrooms at home is also possible and not that difficult. Clean your mushrooms with a soft brush, cut bigger mushrooms in slices (not too thin) and put them in the oven for the night on 40 degrees Celsius. Preserve in a well locked pot or jar and put in a dark place.
Most mushrooms lose a lot of sensorial value (color, odor, taste and particularly texture) when frozen. Industrial frozen mushrooms are ‘shock freezed’. Firm ceps can be frozen reasonably well at home. Slice them in rather large pieces, put them in your freezer (loose from one another) and pack them, once frozen, in plastic bags.
Cleaning. You can’t run away from it. Under the tab gastro and column fungi info on this website, you can read, per kind of mushroom, what’s the best way to clean them.
There’re all sorts of kitchenware to clean mushrooms. A pompon or brush (the original ones are made of the hair of wild boar), an epilation forceps to remove twigs of moss and pine needles, and a peeler to clean the soiled foot of for instance ceps.
That mushrooms should never be washed in water is in general not true. Some species can handle this good, others not. When you wash them with water, do it very quickly. With the hood straight up, so no water can come under the hood and drench it. Than dry them directly with a towel or in the salad spinner. Sometimes, depending of the size of the siltation, it’s best to use a moistened towel.
Anyway, what you never should wash with water are white button mushrooms, chanterelles, ceps, pine mushrooms, parasol and blue foot mushrooms, morels, oyster and Fairy ring mushrooms.
Welling up mushrooms in hot water gives you a result in about 10 minutes. Or until they’re soft. This is the forced method and often works fine. For the best result though, give it some more time. A few hours in cold or lukewarm water. Than the taste will be at its best and you have less chance of finding hard or tough pieces. Besides that, the soaking juice is often richer in color, fragrance and taste. For some preparations or dishes you can add some Madeira, red Port wine or stock to the water before you start welling up.
Sift the extract or soaking juice carefully through a sieve covered with a fine towel. That way all the sand and other undesirable elements are removed. What’s left is a golden, to sometimes almost black, clear juice. A beautiful boost in (clear) soups, sauces and various dishes.
Mushrooms often are used to emphasize a dish. Because of the color, form and structure, but also because of the specific taste and/or in delightful combinations with other ingredients. In vegetarian dishes, but also in dishes like pasta or risotto, they are not only used in bigger numbers, but often also mixed. Though these Umami bombs could be very tasty, it’s sometimes a pity that you can’t distinguish the unique individual taste of each mushroom anymore. So, specially in the high season when pricing is interesting, try to make a (vegetarian) dish now and then of one specific mushroom. Like our receipt Lasagna with chanterelles. Then you’ll taste a bomb of chanterelle! When you cook it with 100 to 150 grams of chanterelles per person, it’s also an affordable dish.
It’s not our intention to present a kitchen-mushroom-instruction-book here. Chefs, gourmands and food lovers know probably more than we do. But it would be awesome that they share their knowledge among one another and with the rest of the world. So, we kindly invite everyone to send in recipes, ideas and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. If possible with pictures, video or personal information you like to share.
Nevertheless, hereby some of our general tips for cooking mushrooms:
Cut, if necessary, your cleaned mushrooms in reasonable comparable pieces. Large chanterelles can be ripped in smaller parts by ripping the mushroom from the tulip-shaped hood to the feet. This way, while cooking, the parts need about the same time.
Parsley and a touch of fresh garlic are the classic combinations. Other nice combinations are white button or chestnut mushrooms with chive, Fairy ring with tarragon, blue foot with sage, chanterelles with basil, Lactarius and ceps with thyme, morels with savory, Saint Georges with ramsons or wild garlic.
Be very careful in using strong herbs and avoid excessive use of spices and garlic etc. After all, you want to experience the unique and delicate tastes of mushrooms. And should you use much spices, like in the classic Champignons à l’escargots, don’t expect to taste any of the mushrooms (but nevertheless a very tasteful dish!). An absolute mockery is marinated white button mushrooms on a stick, available among some traders and in supermarkets; with powders of curry or pepper or garlic. And to make sure you won’t taste any mushroom at all, just put them on a charcoal BBQ. To these so called ‘innovations’ we say “rather not” . . .
In general, it’s better to use washed, dried or chopped herbs in two phases. The first time halfway the preparation (frying, braising, broiling, roasting). With soups and sauces, it’s better to fry / swet the herbs directly together with other tastemakers like shallots, garlic, mushrooms. That way the flavors are extracted intensely and give max taste to the final dish.
The second time you add fresh herbs, is at the end of the preparation. As a taste accelerator and for a colorful presentation.
Add salt always at the end of the preparation. Salt extracts moisture (water). That makes frying mushrooms difficult. They hardly caramelize (turn brown) and the mushrooms will lose their bite quickly.
To enjoy (and actually ‘taste’) the delicate flavors of mushrooms, we advise to fry them in some pure refined olive oil. First sear up in a well heated pan for a sec. Directly turn the heat to medium and once they become brown, melt in some good (clarified) butter and fry on a tempered heat. Depending of the size of the (pieces of the) mushrooms it will take a minute till several minutes. Than they stay firm on the inside, instead of swampy or slimy.
The ultimate result (with most mushrooms, but especially with ceps) is to add a crushed fresh garlic clove, a bit of chopped shallot and a twig of thyme the moment you add the butter (as described above). These are not for eating but ‘round up’ the taste of the mushrooms and of the fat.
Other types of fat used for frying mushrooms are, depending of the dish, goose fat, grape seed oil (or in combination with groundnut oil) and lard.
For cold dishes, you can use olive oil ‘vierge’, walnut oil or hazelnut oil. This last one matched very well with the Pom Pom mushroom (or ‘bearded hedgehog’), because this mushroom actually has a rather strong tough of hazelnut after frying. Especially in a lukewarm autumn salad with crispy quail breasts and legs. Miraculous!
Grilling mushrooms on a charcoal grill or BBQ often gives a too explicit ‘smokey flavor’. Nevertheless, a mushroom can give a nice variety in combination with other ingredients.
We however think that, in order to taste the mushroom itself, the best way is to grill them on a gas or electric grill. Sweep it with some good oil and grill shortly.