Magazine article Sunset

How to Choose, Store, Clean, Cook Mushrooms

Magazine article Sunset

How to Choose, Store, Clean, Cook Mushrooms

Article excerpt

How to choose, store, clean, cook mushrooms

Cultivated or wild, mushrooms are fragile and very perishable. Regardless of the type you use (see pages 78 to 81), you need to handle them with care.

Here are some guidelines on how to choose, store, clean, and cook them.

Selecting. Choose only fresh-looking mushrooms without signs of decay. Overmature mushrooms not only don't look, smell, or taste good, but they may develop toxins that can make you sick.

To decide how many mushrooms to buy, you need to consider waste and how much they cook down. For example, you discard shiitake stems and woody bases of enoki and oyster mushrooms. You can use all of the wood-ears or pompon blancs, and button or butter mushrooms stems may need to be trimmed only slightly.

Generally, mushrooms shrink by 1/3 to 1/2 when cooked; delicate angel trumpets wilt even more. Cut or sliced mushrooms reduce in size more than whole caps. Button mushroom caps cook down more than shiitake or butter mushroom caps.

Storing. Good-quality fresh mushrooms will keep in the refrigerator for several days, but they rapidly decay and get slimy if stored wet or in contact with moisture-proof wrap. Wrap them in paper towels, then enclose loosely in a plastic or paper bag. If necessary, repack purchased mushrooms.

Cleaning. In disagreement with many cooks, we strongly recommend washing mushrooms just before cooking. First brush or cut away caked-on debris. Then quickly immerse mushrooms, a few at a time, in cool water; shake gently to help dislodge any debris (usually particles of pasteurized growing medium) or insects. Lift out, shake gently, and drain on paper towels. Any small amount of moisture absorbed will be expelled as the mushrooms cook.

Cut off and discard woody or tough stems; mushrooms that grow in clusters, like oysters and enoki, can be cut or pulled in chunks from the woody base.

If you are working with mushrooms collected in the wild, check for tiny holes bored into the mushrooms. Cut into holes and check for worms or bugs; if you find infestations, trim them out and discard.

Cut or leave whole? You can chop or slice any mushroom, but if you want to preserve the look of small to medium-size (up to 1 1/2-in. diameter) mushrooms, leave them whole. Mushrooms that grow in clusters need to be torn apart; large mushrooms need to be cut up or the caps and stems separated to cook evenly. …

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