Cooking with Mushrooms

Cooking How-To, How-To, Ingredient
on January 1, 2007
Mark Boughton Photography

Here’s a quick primer on mushroom varieties.

Crimini: These brown mushrooms are baby portabellas and can substitute for white button mushrooms in any recipe. They have a heartier, earthier flavor than white mushrooms.

Shiitake: These tan-colored mushrooms have broad caps and a spongy texture well suited to many cooking methods, including stir-fries, braising, grilling and roasting. They are not served raw, and the woody stems are not consumed (though they can be used to flavor stocks and sauces).

Oyster: Gracefully shaped oyster mushrooms range in color from taupe to brown, have a velvet-like texture. They are served cooked and usually paired with ingredients that won’t overwhelm their delicate flavor.

Enoki: The long stems (that should be trimmed) and tiny button caps of enoki set them apart from most other mushrooms. Serve them raw in salads and sandwiches for crunch and a mild, refreshing flavor. They also make an attractive garnish.

Morel: Morel caps are unmistakable: they are somewhat conical with a highly textured surface and a rich, nutty aroma. Small morels are often used whole in delicate sauces, while larger ones are prized for the woodsy, slightly sweet flavor and fragrance they add to everything from stews and soups to risottos and pasta.

Portabella: These large relatives of white mushrooms have a beefy texture and deep, meaty flavor. They usually range from 3 to 6 inches in diameter. They generally are not eaten raw, but they make a great vegetable substitute for a burger and can be sliced and sauteed, stuffed and used to replace meat in stir-fries and sauces.

NOTE: To clean mushrooms, wipe with damp paper towels or rinse with water just before using. Never immerse in water or they will get mushy. Store in a paper bag in the refrigerator where air can circulate.

—By Marge Perry, a food writer in Tenafly, N.J.