Mushrooms are sexy for so many reasons. They can be used in sauces, side dishes or treated like a steak. They can be stuffed with all sorts of culinary love. They absorb marinades well and are great on the grill. But beware, not all mushrooms are this nice.
Some are poisonous:
A few species can kill you.
Some are toxic:
They may make you vomit or crap your pants.
Some are hallucinogenic:
Meaning they can induce a psychedelic experience. They taste like crap because they are cultivated in shit. Doesn’t that sound delicious? If you want an out-of-body experience, try some of my mushroom recipes (the edible kind!) on your next dinner date. I am sure you will have a more pleasurable experience (with her and the food) then you would on hallucinogens.
The most common edible mushroom you will find in your markets is the white mushroom. It’s mild in flavor and holds its shape well. White mushrooms are great for sauces and sides, and are inexpensive. Another common mushroom, the crimini (Italian) is tan to brown and has more flavor than its cousin the white mushroom. Portobello mushrooms are mature criminis, meaning they’re big. They’re great as a steak because they are very large and can absorb liquids well.
There is a debate on whether to wash your shrooms or not. Some chefs previously advised not to wash or soak mushrooms, but instead to clean them gently with a damp cloth or brush. However, star geek chic Chef, Alton Brown, or the “encyclopedia brown” of food has debunked the myth that mushroom absorb significant amounts of water when washed. Many chefs currently recommend rinsing off any dirt gently under running water in a colander—especially in light of where mushrooms are grown (in lots of dirty peat!). The one thing the chefs all do agree on, is that the mushrooms shouldn’t be washed until they’re ready to be prepared and eaten.
My personal favorite mushrooms are the crimini and the elusive, yet sensational, black or white truffle. The brown crimini are common and cheap. Truffles are expensive and are used primarily in French and northern Italian cooking. They grow underneath oak trees in parts of Italy, France and Spain. Scent sniffing dogs or pigs are used to seek them out. Other parts of Europe harvest some truffles and China mass produces a truffle. To me, truffles have a sensual and delicate flavor. They can enhance dishes such as risotto, mac and cheese, and when infused with olive oil, a plethora of other foods. Try drizzling some truffle oil on your hamburger bun or in your scrambled eggs. Truffles are towards the top of my favorite ingredients. I have served all types of mushroom dishes to the ladies, and although the truffle is very romantic and may be “exotic” for some, a simple side dish of sautéed mushrooms will perfectly accent many entrées and make for a dandy evening.