They stand out because of their size, but dried shiitake mushrooms aren’t the only ones that may call for softening before you add them to casseroles or stews or simply dip them in a little chive cream cheese for a quick snack. Porcini, portabella, chanterelles and black trumpet mushrooms can be tough breeds that may give you pause, too. There are two basic ways to soften mushrooms. Think about the most compatible option for your dish and then proceed to take the edge off these scrumptious veggies.
Soften by Soaking
Remove the stems and place your tough mushrooms in a deep bowl. Pour boiling water on top of them. Season the mushrooms, if you wish, with a little garlic salt. Let the mushrooms soak for about 30 minutes. Extend the soak time for large or oversized mushrooms. In general, the larger the mushroom, the longer it will take to soften in water.
Drain the mushrooms in a colander and gently wring them of water. The softer texture will enable the mushrooms to cook more evenly.
Make use of the soaking liquid, if you can, instead of discarding it. The mushroom flavor, as well as any seasoning you added to the water, could make a fine addition to soups or stews.
Soften by Sauteing
Remove the stems from the mushrooms and slice them, if you wish. For large mushrooms, consider using a hard-boiled egg slicer to make the job quicker.
Melt some butter in a sauté pan on medium heat. You can use nonfat cooking spray instead, but you will sacrifice some flavor.
Place the mushrooms in a single layer in the pan. Saute whole-cap mushrooms for between seven and 10 minutes and sliced mushrooms for between four and six minutes, turning once. Remove the mushrooms from the stove and season to taste.
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- Keep mushrooms fresh by placing them in a closed paper bag inside your refrigerator. The bag will help absorb the moisture. Conversely, a plastic container is more likely to accumulate moisture and cause the mushrooms to spoil.
Mary Wroblewski earned a master's degree with high honors in communications and has worked as a reporter and editor in two Chicago newsrooms. She launched her own small business, which specialized in assisting small business owners with “all things marketing” – from drafting a marketing plan and writing website copy to crafting media plans and developing email campaigns. Mary writes extensively about small business issues, and especially “all things marketing.”