Cooking Mushrooms

I am not much of a cook. I want to find an inexpensive, quick, nutritious, and tasty way to satisfy my appetite. Many elaborate recipes have been created to use with wild mushrooms; when I have tasted the results, the mushrooms hardly ever peeked out from the megadoses of exotic ingredients. Why go to the trouble of picking mushrooms if you can't even taste them? With this in mind, I offer my two cents on preparing mushrooms for the mouth...

First things First

So, you picked some mushrooms. Do you know what kind they are? If not, hold everything until you find out. It should go without saying, but for the record DO NOT EAT ANYTHING UNLESS YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY SURE OF ITS IDENTITY. Don't put blind trust in what you buy at the supermarket, either. For other suggested "edibility rules", click here.

Anyway, getting the mushrooms ready to be cooked is one of the most time consuming processes. Discard moldy mushrooms, and ones with lots of maggots in them. Small bruised areas, or areas with a few worm-holes, may be cut away and the rest of the mushroom retained for use. Mushrooms should not generally be soaked in water or washed to remove dirt. A brush or damp towel will remove most of the dirt. I'm not a clean freak when it comes to food; a little dirt and a few conifer needles add authenticity to the experience.

The Basic Method

Most mushrooms can be cooked using a very easy method: Cut the mushrooms into fairly large thin slices, and throw them into a fry pan with a little butter over low-medium heat. Saute for a few minutes until the mushrooms are of a desirable consistency. Options include adding vegetables such as green peppers or onions at the beginning of the saute. Mushrooms with a high water content should be cooked uncovered, while those that tend to be drier and harder (such as matsutakes) may be covered for a minute or so to make them more tender. Sauteed mushrooms may be used in the dishes below.

Mushrooms on a Shingle

Sauteed wild mushrooms, to taste
1 can condensed cream-of-something soup
Splash of milk
Cooked turkey or hamburger (optional)
Sliced bread Empty contents of soup can into a saucepan, adding only a small amount of milk rather than a full can. Stir in mushrooms and meat (if desired), and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring often. Lightly toast slices of bread. Pour soup mixture over bread and serve as a hot, open-faced sandwich. Favorite mushrooms: Hedgehogs, matsutakes, and chanterelles.

Killer Mushroom Omelette

Fresh or sauteed chanterelles
Chopped onion and/or green peppers, to taste
Margarine for saute
Grated pepper-jack cheese, to taste
2-3 fresh eggs Saute chanterelles along with onion and green peppers. Beat eggs and add to hot skillet. Fold in sauteed ingredients and cheese to make a killer omelette. Serve hot.

Mushrooms On Pizza

Enough mushrooms to be well-represented on said pizza Prepare pizza as you normally would, and add sauteed mushrooms when done. Or, add frozen mushrooms (see below) before cooking the pizza. Delicious mushrooms: chanterelles, Agaricus species, and according to one person Russula xerampelina.

Frozen Mushrooms

How do you preserve mushrooms when you pick more than you can use right away? Freeze them! Saute the mushrooms as above, then spread separately on a cookie sheet and put in freezer for one hour. Remove from cookie sheet into freezer bag, then put back in freezer. Frozen mushrooms may be kept for up to a year. To use, simply warm up in microwave or skillet, or throw into a dish before cooking. Works well with almost any mushroom species!

Dried Mushrooms

Drying mushrooms is very popular, but I have had mixed results. Only certain species seem to dry well. If you have a variable-temp food dehydrator, you are probably home free. I have been reduced to laying mushroom slices on a heater grate for a few hours, turning once, until the mushrooms are brittle and dry. Store in an airtight container, and use in a soup or other "wet" dish.