I'm probably writing this for a minority of readers. And perhaps minority readers too, I have no idea. I'm betting most of you out there don't like mushrooms, but maybe you do...this is a food blog, after all.
It took me a long time before I started to eat mushrooms, and even more time to actually like them. Their texture was always my dislike, but with proper treatment that is hardly a worry. Those button mushrooms deep-fried in grease and covered with ranch dressing, that's the only way I would even think about eating one in years past. If you have an aversion to the texture, you need to cook them properly, which is spread out in a hot pan to sear them, flip, turn down the heat a bit and let cook until softened and lovely, then seasoned with fat and flavor. Still can't get over your textural difficulties? Puree into a soup and you'll have the absolute essence of mushroom in a convenient liquid form. A very delicious representation of the powerful shroom.
Here's a great article on how to properly handle the fungus among us.
To this day the single dish that my taste buds have enjoyed the most? Hen-of-the-woods mushrooms at Craft in Manhattan. That dish was expertly prepared and served beautifully. Paired with an amazing Pinot Noir that tasted like it also grew on a damp log in the forest, I will never forget every single element of that exact moment. It was like eating dirt, and it was fucking awesome. And they gave us a muffin for breakfast on our way out the door!
My everyday mushroom, for slicing thin and eaten raw in salads to sauteing in EVOO is the cremini, or baby bella. The ground rules- move them to a paper bag, loosely closed, instead of that death-wrap plastic. They should last a week or so in the fridge. Clean them off with a damp paper towel before using to remove any visible dirt, a quick rinse is okay to as long as you don't soak them. And that stem that has been growing in manure? You're gonna want to trim that, unless you eat pieces of shit for breakfast. For this recipe, a variety of mushrooms will bring you a depth of flavor, I employed the less-often used oyster and some dried shiitakes. Be sure to rehydrate any dried mushrooms with a bit of water, stock, or wine.
4 servings as side
1 lb mixed mushrooms, varied to your taste/budget- cremini, oyster, shiitake, chanterelle, trimmed and sliced
3 TB butter
2 medium shallot, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 ts dried thyme or 1 spring fresh
pinch chili pepper flake
1 C chicken or veggie stock (or 2-see below)
truffle oil/freshly grated nutmeg- optional
If you are using dehydrated mushrooms, follow the package directions to hydrate them properly. 10 minutes in 1 cup of very warm water or stock should do the trick- strain and save the liquid. If you are skipping this step, add 2 cups of stock.
In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shrooms, spreading them out to get as much fungus touching the hot skillet as possible. Cook for 2-3 minutes and then stir it up, turning them onto their uncooked sides. Toss in the shallot, cook for 2-3 more minutes until the mushrooms are nicely browned. Turn down the heat to medium-low and add the garlic and hot pepper flake. Stir for one minute to quickly heat the the garlic and toast the flakes. Add the stock to the party, season to taste with thyme and S&P, stir that all up. Let simmer for 8-10 minutes, then pour into a bowl or pot and zap with a stick blender, alternatively you could blend this in batches in your blender. Stick or immersion blenders are so much easier, well worth the $25. Pour into pre-warmed serving bowls, garnish with a few drops of truffle oil, grated nutmeg, a couple sauteed mushrooms, or perhaps a crouton or two.
If you'd like to whip out a three-course meal to impress yo date, this soup should be considered as first course. It's easy as hell and will showcase your skills on the stovetop. Or, you can make it ahead and warm it up before serving.