Early autumn is the perfect time to break away from simple mushrooms and experiment with wild mushrooms. We speak of Enokis, chanterelles and all other mushrooms, which are suitable for a cozy dinner in the autumn.
Mushrooms are a strange part of an omnivore's diet. They are not vegetables or fruits, but a mushroom. And while this word often causes vile images of fuzzy mold and dirty pond foam, mushrooms are mushrooms that we've fallen in love with. Their umami flavor and spongy consistency are important ingredients in many dishes.
Most Americans stick to mushrooms or crimini. But in the fall, other types of wild mushrooms on farmers markets and health food stores across the country are becoming more common. Now let us be clear that these "wild" mushrooms are either cultivated on farms or found by experienced mushroom seekers. Stick to your local whole foods or to a trusted supplier of these wild mushrooms. Remember, there is a thin line between finding a morel and achieving your mortality.
Common wild mushrooms and sources of supply
Most of us know what to do with a mushroom or even a portobello. However, there are many other varieties that are available in unusual shapes and sizes. Here are some of the most common edible forest mushrooms and list them where they are most likely to be found in stores.
Chanterelles: These are also native to the Pacific Northwest parts of the United Kingdom. They are yellow and orange with a fruity scent and a light pepper taste. They are likely to be found in the US from September to early December, particularly in Washington, Oregon and California.
Oyster Mushrooms: These grow in the most subtropical rainforests in the world, including many regions of the United States. They can also be grown commercially and are therefore often easier to find in grocery stores. While the reason for this is unclear, oyster mushrooms do not grow in the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest. It can be hard to find on the West Coast.
Shiitake Mushrooms: This earthy mushroom is native to Japan but is grown commercially worldwide. It can be difficult to find them fresh in the shops, but dried varieties are available in regular supermarkets throughout the year.
Enoki mushrooms: but still hard to find. Watch out for farmers' markets and farm cooperative boxes from December to March.
Beech Mushrooms: These are produced and cultivated in North America for trade. They are available year round, but their presence in stores is still limited. In Oregon, a close relative of the beech mushroom is cultivated and sold as the highly esteemed and popular "Fried Chicken Mushroom". These and other beech mushrooms are available from autumn to early spring.
How to clean and prepare wild mushrooms
When cleaning and preparing wild mushrooms, the variety does not really matter. Use a mushroom brush or paper towel to remove loose dirt. If the mushrooms still have some packed soil that the towel can not remove, you can whisk them around in a bowl of lukewarm water. However, remove it quickly. Submerged mushrooms can be soaked.
If the variety you use has large gills, you probably want to remove them. This is done for aesthetic and structural reasons and not for reasons of taste or safety. Mushroom gills tend to become slimy when cooked, and they are not difficult to remove. However, they are difficult to clean, which is another reason to get rid of them.
You also want to remove the lower part of the mushroom stem. This is known as the foot of the mushroom, and there are usually lumps of dirt hanging from it. If you bought your mushrooms in a store, they probably have already been removed. However, if you are fresh from the farmers market, you may need to make them yourself. Some recipes require that the entire mushroom stem is removed. As with the gills, this is more of a texture issue than a matter of safety or taste.
Cooking with fresh wild mushrooms
Regardless of the variety, there are some important points to consider when cooking mushrooms. For starters, mushrooms are mainly water. Therefore, they shrink so much during cooking. Traditional cooking habits say that the amount of moisture in mushrooms can be problematic. If you overfill the pan, the ability of the mushrooms to brown will be affected by the resulting vapor build-up. Most prescriptions therefore instruct you to use a large pan and make sure your mushrooms are dry.
Of course, rules are formulated in such a way that they are not kept. If you want to try a less obvious wet method of cooking mushrooms, the International Culinary Center in New York has published an article explaining how and why you should do it.
Whether you are wet or dry, all cooks agree. Mushrooms can survive long cooking periods without becoming soggy. This means that a low and slow roast time or a long roast is a nice cooking method for every mushroom.
How to Cook with Dried Wild Mushrooms
Sometimes it is difficult to find fresh mushrooms in a particular variety, but their dried counterparts tend to be readily available. If you use dried mushrooms, you must first reconstitute them in warm water. Use a large container as the mushrooms grow up to four times their dried size and the water completely covers them. Soak the dried mushrooms for 15-20 minutes before using them in your recipe.
For added flavor, try warm wine or broth instead of water. And be sure to keep the soaking fluid. It gives your soups, stews, broths and sauces a huge punch with umami wrap.
So do not be shy of these strange and varied mushrooms. Wild mushrooms give the usual dishes flavor and variety. Try them in a homemade mushroom cream soup and take your harvest thanks to a new level. Try them in risotto and inspire your whole family. Or just roast it perfectly and throw it on a juicy burger for a week. The variety of colors, flavors and textures found in wild mushrooms will make your favorite food even better in autumn.