Mushrooms often get a bad reputation since they are odd-looking fungi that thrive in dark, damp places. However, mushrooms are a versatile ingredient that can be added to many recipes to enhance just about any dish. The most popular mushrooms are sold at the local supermarket, but other common mushrooms can be found in health food or specialty stores. Some mushrooms are classified as wild, but are also cultivated to be sold commercially. Mushrooms can also be found fresh, canned or dried.
Here are some of the most popular types of mushrooms and how to use them:
The white button mushroom one of the most common mushrooms you can spot in the grocery store. This mushroom is harvested in its early growing stage, which is why it has its pale color and subtle, mild taste. The white button mushroom can be eaten raw or cooked and is versatile enough to be added to almost any dish. If you want to bring out a deeper flavor, try slow-cooking or sautéeing this mushroom in extra virgin olive oil and spices.
The portobello mushroom is a large, earthy mushroom with a robust flavor. Due to its hearty, dense texture, it is popular as a meat replacement in many dishes for vegans and vegetarians. The portobello mushroom is the most mature version of the white button mushroom after being harvested in its latest growing stage. The mushroom has a large cap that is great for grilling, marinating, stuffing or baking. The portobello mushroom has a rich taste that brings depth to foods such as sauces, gravies and stews.
The cremini mushroom is the younger version of the portobello mushroom, but an older version of the white button mushroom. It is sometimes referred to as a "baby Bella." Creminis are typically the size of a white button, perhaps a little larger, and are also just as versatile. They are darker in color and have a richer flavor, making them great add-ins for dishes such as sauce, stuffing, casseroles and make delicious stuffed mushrooms.
The shiitake mushroom is common in Asian cuisine. It is often found in dried or powdered form. The fresh shiitake mushroom is a delicate mushroom and has a woodsy, mild flavor, while the dried mushroom has a more intense flavor. They add a lot of depth to foods such as soups, stir-fries, sauces and pasta dishes, but should be added at the last minute to maintain their quality and flavor.
The oyster mushroom has petal-like fans that make it look like a bouquet of flowers and is delicate and pale with a sweet, mild flavor. The oyster mushroom goes excellent in soups, stir-fries and rice dishes, but just like the shiitake mushroom, should be added at the end of cooking time for best results.
The chanterelle mushroom resembles a squash blossom and carries a floral, fruity scent. A bit more exotic than its mushroom counterparts, the chanterelle has a golden color and mild, peppery taste. It is delicate, but wonderful for sauteing in butter or oil. The chanterelle mushroom is also great for cooking in wine or cream-based sauces. It is considered to be more of a gourmet mushroom.
The porcini mushroom is a highly sought-after, popular mushroom in fine Italian cuisine that is similar to the portobello mushroom regarding texture and flavor. Porcinis carry a nutty, dense, earthy taste while boasting a smooth, creamy consistency. This type of mushroom is most often found in the dried variety. Soak the dried porcinis in hot water for roughly 20 minutes before adding to a recipe.
The morel mushroom has a strange appearance that looks more like a sponge or honeycomb than a mushroom. However, this mushroom has a unique, intense flavor that goes well with meat dishes, stews, soups and pasta. The morel mushroom cannot be eaten raw because it contains toxins that are destroyed only by cooking. It is commonly found dried and should be reconstituted with hot water for roughly 20 minutes before adding to a meal.
The enoki mushroom is another strange-looking mushroom. It is harvested as a cluster of long, thread-like stems with tiny, white caps, and is popular in Asian cooking. Enokis can be eaten raw or cooked and have a crisp, firm texture that make them great to add to soups and salads. The enoki mushroom has a mild but fruity flavor.
The maitake mushroom is often called "hen-of-the-wood" and is shaped like a bouquet of fan-like caps. While the mushroom is somewhat delicate in texture, it has a full, hearty flavor. Maitakes add a rich and earthy quality to any dish they are added to. This type of mushroom is versatile and great for meals such as pizza, pasta, sauce, soup, stew and stir-fry.
The truffle is probably most known for its pungent aroma and high price tag. Truffles are often considered a delicacy and come in a couple of varieties. The white truffle is usually eaten raw, typically shaven over completed dishes right before serving. Black truffles are also served raw and have a lighter taste and smell than the white truffle. Cooking dulls the flavor of the potent truffle, but these mushrooms are also added to recipes to enhance another food's flavor while cooking. The truffle is also known for infusing flavor into other foods, such as butter, oil or alcohol.
The hedgehog mushroom rivals the fancy chanterelle mushroom, but often without getting all of the attention. It is a light yellow and orange color and boasts a sweet, nutty taste. Hedgehog mushrooms are firm and meaty and go well in almost any dish. This type of mushroom is excellent for sauteing, pickling, canning and subbing for any recipe that calls for chanterelles.