Know Your Mushrooms

Know Your Mushrooms(cont.)

King Trumpet

(a.k.a. French Horn, King Oyster)

In the same family as the oyster mushroom, the king trumpet is larger and denser. Its buttery, sweet flavor makes it a good choice for grilling and as an addition to stews. An “all-around good mushroom,” Garrone says.

Shelf life: 10 days

Morel

(a.k.a. Land Fish)

This springtime mushroom is highly prized for its earthy, smoky flavor and light, veallike texture. Because it’s so strong in flavor, the morel works well with beef and in rich gravies. One popular fresh preparation is to flour and fry morels.

Shelf life: 5 days

Chanterelle

Chanterelle refers to a family of mushrooms including the golden, yellowfoot, and white chanterelle, as well as the black trumpet mushroom. In the United States, chanterelles are in season during the fall, but Garrone says they’re available 10 months out of the year worldwide so you have a good chance of finding them any time. With a firm texture and a subtle flavor featuring peppery apricot notes, they’re great in cream sauces.

Shelf life: 10 days

Black Trumpet

Garrone describes the texture of black trumpets as “very slight, almost like they’re not really there,” but the mushrooms’ aromatic, cheeselike flavor makes up for that. Chop them finely and add them to eggs, stews, or anything that needs a bold flavor pickup. Black trumpets are harvested in late fall and into winter across the United States.

Shelf life: 4 to 10 days, depending on moisture level

Lobster

The lobster mushroom gets its distinctive red color from a powdery parasitic fungus that grows on its surface, but don’t let that sway you: Its walnut-meat texture and mild seafood flavor have made it increasingly popular. Lobster mushrooms are better fresh than dried, and the best time to find them in the U.S. is September. Check them carefully for bugs. Garrone recommends brushing them with olive oil and garlic and grilling, or using them in lobster bisque instead of the real thing.

Shelf life: 7 days

Cauliflower

Picked in the late spring to early fall in Oregon and Washington, cauliflower mushrooms grow in clusters that can weigh as much as 35 pounds. They have the texture of egg noodles and a rainy, lemon-zest flavor, and can be used as a noodle substitute. Garrone recommends chopping and sautéing them as a side dish with herbs and cream. Look for specimens that are as white as possible, in clusters the size of a cauliflower head.

Shelf life: 7 days

Yellowfoot Chanterelle

A true winter mushroom, the yellowfoot is sought for its earthy, woodsy flavor. Its delicate texture breaks down easily in sauces, and it is usually paired with veal or pork, as well as game dishes such as venison, rabbit, duck, or quail. Don’t confuse it with its relative, the golden chanterelle.

Shelf life: 4 days

Fairy Ring

This fall mushroom is imported from Europe and can be found dried year-round. Its cashewlike flavor makes it ideal for risottos and cream sauces. Garrone also recommends it with fish; he recently made a halibut dish with pecans and fairy ring mushrooms. The dried form of the mushroom has an intense flavor, so just use a little bit.

Shelf life: 1 year dried

Candy Cap

Generally only found dried (fresh specimens can sometimes be spotted in December or January in U.S. markets), the candy cap is prized for desserts. It has a distinctive sweet maple scent and flavor that go well in shortbread or cheesecake. Powdered, it can be added to pancake batter as a sweetener for diabetics. It can be expensive, but half an ounce is enough for a gallon of ice cream, says Garrone.

Shelf life: 2 to 3 days fresh, 1 year dried

Wood Ear

Wood ear mushrooms are most commonly recognized as “the weird thing in hot-and-sour soup,” says Garrone. They aren’t very flavorful, but people love them for their firm yet chewy texture similar to seaweed. The fungus is also said to have medicinal qualities. While it can be eaten fresh, wood ear is most often found dried, and after soaking in warm water for 15 minutes, the dried variety reconstitutes so that it’s almost indistinguishable from fresh.

Shelf life: 1 year dried

Matsutake

(a.k.a. Pine)

Extremely popular in Japan, matsutakes are best fresh and can sell for well over $100 per pound. They are a fall variety in the States. Garrone describes the texture as “a little fibrous” and the flavor as “cinnamon pine.” Look for a specimen that is still closed, i.e., one in which you can’t see the gills. Matsutakes grow in sooty soil, so they’ll usually need a lot of cleaning with a moist paper towel. They are aromatic and traditionally served in miso soup or rice dishes.

Shelf life: 3 to 14 days, depending on the quality

Black Truffle

Brillat-Savarin called the truffle “the diamond of the kitchen.” Valued for their aromatic qualities, truffles vary in taste and smell depending on their age and provenance. They’re generally harvested in northern Italy, Spain, France, and Oregon. Flavors can range from earthy to green apple to savory garlic, while prices can range from $400 to $1,600 a pound. Look for very firm specimens. Usually shaved over warm food, truffles can also infuse foods; stored with eggs, for example, they will flavor the eggs.

Shelf life: 4 days (the aromatics will be lost after that)