An article in Time magazine last month declared we are living in the Mushroom Millenium.. I can’t agree more. Fact is, there are many more delicious types of mushrooms out there than I ever imagined years ago, back when the most common place to see them was sliced, on a pizza.
When you get beyond basic button varieties, mushrooms have an amazing range of texture, flavor and aroma. Most exotic mushrooms have a rich, deep flavor that goes a long way – just a few will really transform a dish! Have you browsed through all the exotic varieties in our produce department? Here are some of my favorites:
Texas-grown organic shiitakes: An Asian variety especially suited to Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and other Asian dishes, like stir-fries and soups. You can substitute them in any recipe calling for standard white or button mushrooms, but shiitakes has a stronger flavor, so you can get away with using fewer. We carry all-organic shiitakes, grown in Denton, just north of Fort Worth.
Morel: Related to the expensive truffle, the morel has been described as looking like a sponge or a honeycomb, but it has a robust, earthy, nutty taste that is especially popular in French cuisine. (Use them in tarts, cream sauces over chicken or pasta, or just gently sautéed, for starters.) They’re generally available fresh only in the spring, so try them soon! Make sure to clean morels carefully, as dirt can hide in the honeycomb folds.
Hen of the woods: Multiple heads, or caps, grow together to form one large mushroom. It’s firm-textured and earthy-tasting; it might remind you of a slightly stronger portabello. It roasts and grills beautifully.
Chanterelle: More delicate than many other exotic mushrooms, chanterelles are great in salads, sauces and, especially, risotto. Cook only briefly, or they’ll get tough.
Yellowfoot: A type of chanterelle, they are smaller, milder and a little more delicate. They make a delicious side dish, sautéed with other varieties of mushrooms in butter, or you can use them for any dish calling for chanterelles.
Bluefoot: This one gets its name from its stem, which is a deep lilac-blue. (The color fades as the mushroom ages.) They must be cooked before eating, and they have intense flavor that holds up well to grilling or roasting.
Pioppini: These grow in a kind of cluster, with long white stems and smooth brown caps. Popular in Italy paired with pasta, all of the pioppini can be eaten; the stems have a firm texture that’s reminiscent of asparagus, and the caps are more velvety. They taste a little bit like porcini, but with a peppery undertone.