Chefs, home cooks, and gourmet cooking experts all understand and appreciate the range of flavor and texture gourmet mushrooms add to any dish. Cooking mushrooms go way beyond white button or cremini mushrooms! There are plenty of other flavorful fungi to add to your cooking, and a growing number of recipes are calling for both fresh and dried mushrooms. Mushrooms are the second most common ingredient in recipes around the world, with onions taking the number one spot. There are plenty of reasons why cooking with mushrooms is so popular in everyday dishes and gourmet cooking.
Why Cook With Gourmet Mushrooms?
Mushrooms are not a vegetable; they have a unique biochemical structure that is more comparable to an animal than a vegetable. This is why mushrooms are often used as a meat substitution in vegan and vegetarian dishes. Similar to meat, mushrooms also change in response to different cooking techniques and the ingredients they are prepared with. This makes cooking mushrooms very versatile and easy to incorporate into a wide range of dishes and cuisines.
In terms of flavor, mushrooms have high levels of glutamic acid, which is a natural flavor enhancer. They also contain nucleotides, and together with glutamic acid, they create savouriness, one of the five basic tastes commonly referred to as umami.
Mushrooms are also loaded with incredible health benefits and proven to improve physical, mental, and cognitive health. In fact, they are referred to as mini-vaccines or immune system sidekicks. In addition to being gourmet ingredients, they are medicinal mushrooms for your immune system. Each of the following three gourmet mushrooms adds nutritional value, health benefits, complexity, flavor, and texture to your cooking. So, if you are looking to boost health and improve your skills in the kitchen, you need to try these:
Black Oyster Mushrooms
Black oyster mushrooms are a great example of the culinary adaptability gourmet mushrooms have. They typically have a mild flavor, and when sauteed in butter and lemon, they will have a mild sweetness to them, which is phenomenal with chicken or fish. Alternatively, if you prepare them by tossing them in garlic, olive oil, and rosemary and then grill them, you will find they have a more hearty flavor profile that pairs beautifully with a steak and glass of red wine.
The texture of these mushrooms is on the firmer side when compared to other mushroom varieties making them excellent additions to soups, casseroles, omelets, and stir-fries. Or, try my personal favorite and add them as a topping on pizza. Not only will black oyster mushrooms add great flavor and texture, but they also have cancer fighting properties and reduce inflammation!
Shiitake mushrooms are native to Japan and China and have been a popular ingredient for centuries. To this day, they are widely used in East Asia as a flavorful ingredient as well as a supplementary treatment for tumors due to their anti-cancer effects. Shiitake mushrooms are the most cultivated mushroom in the world and are known for the rich umami flavor they add to different cuisines. The flavor profile of shiitake mushrooms is more earthy, and when cooked, they have a very meaty texture.
You can use both the mushroom caps and stems in cooking; however, they have to be separated first as they have different cooking times. The stems are tougher and require more time but are pleasantly chewy when well cooked. These mushrooms are great sauteed and served on the side. Sautee with butter, garlic, soy sauce, and lemon juice for a flavorful and hearty side dish. They are also great in stir-fries and can be cooked in a wok with peanut oil and scallions.
Lion's Mane Mushrooms
Lion’s mane mushrooms look different than your basic cooking mushrooms, something that intrigues gourmet chefs and can intimate less experienced home cooks. Regardless of your skill level in the kitchen, lion’s mane mushrooms are something you should start experimenting with. The health benefits of lion’s mane are incredible and are often the reason people start cooking with them. By eating lion’s mane mushrooms, you can reduce inflammation, regulate gut microbiota, and even reduce colon tissue damage caused by IBD.
After adding them to a meal, you will see they also have a lot of culinary benefits in addition to these health benefits. The texture is very unique – somewhere between the texture of chicken and lobster. When cooked, they have the pleasant chewiness like lobster or crab and striations like cooked chicken. Lion’s mane mushrooms are so easy to prepare too! Slice into steaks and cook in a pan with butter, pepper, and a bit of salt. Cook on one side for about 5 minutes and then flip. It can also be put in a smoker for 30 minutes before pan-frying for a more smoky flavor. For a richer dish, I like to add garlic and crumbled gorgonzola.
All three of these gourmet mushrooms are easy to prepare! If you want to start off simple, pan fry them and enjoy them as a side dish. Before cooking, make sure you clean your mushrooms.
Brush off any dirt and rinse under water. If forged from the wild, you will have to be careful to remove any bugs living in them and will have to rinse under water a bit longer. That said, you want to avoid soaking your mushrooms in water for too long because they can become soggy and lose their meaty texture!
Is there a favorite dish you like to add mushrooms to? If so, put the white button and cremini mushrooms down and try one of these three gourmet mushrooms in your next meal!