magic mushrooms

Magic mushrooms

24 April 2015

Ripe fruit can be perfect in its naked glory, but vegetables like a bit of dress up. A juicy tomato wants great olive oil, a fluffy baked potato begs for melting butter. And this mushroom saute, with minimal enhancement, simply showcases the earthy richness, meaty texture and indefinable umami that are the essence of mushroom goodness.

Mushrooms give off a lot of liquid as they cook, which is why prepared mushrooms often end up watery or shriveled. The genius of this preparation is that thick slices of portobello are cooked just until soft and silky, and the flavor of the cooking liquid is magically transformed, with a bare touch of soy sauce and cornstarch, into a lustrous umami boost. This is mushrooms at their best.

There are so many good uses for these mushrooms: heaped on a burger, rolled into an omelet, piled on crostini with melted cheese. But they also make a simple, richly flavorful meal over a bowl of rice, greens or polenta – especially with a runny fried egg on top.

And did you know the real magic of mushrooms? Like us, they make vitamin D when exposed to sunlight – even after they’ve been picked. So if you put your mushrooms out to sunbathe first, they’ll stockpile vitamin D for you while you stay cool and wrinkle-free in the shade.

Gills up – cap upside down – is the most effective exposure, but even if you just stick the mushroom container outside after you bring it home, it will work fine (inside is no good, as windows filter out the UVB rays needed to stimulate vitamin D production). Mushrooms hold the vitamin boost even after storage and cooking.

I like using portobellos here – they are really just grown-up versions of the common white button mushroom and its brown crimini twin (all are agaricus bisporus; white is a natural variation of the more common brown). But the mature portobello caps seem to have more flavor. And it’s so much easier to slice three large mushrooms than a couple dozen small ones.

portobellos

Trim the ends.

trimming mushrooms

And halve the portobellos if they are very large.

halving portobello

My mom slices diagonally to make broad, flat slices. More surface area for flavor, she says.

diagonal slice portobello

Some garlic and scallion.

garlic scallion

Add garlic to hot oil.

garlic

Then mushrooms.

mushrooms

Cook just a few minutes, until mushrooms lose their raw stiffness and surfaces look slick.

cooking mushrooms

Mushrooms will release some liquid as they cook, and you’ll want to stop cooking before they shrink much. The amount of liquid varies depending on your mushrooms.

mushroom liquid cooking

The liquid has flavor, but in this form it’s watery. But if we enhance it with a touch of soy sauce, and thicken it with a little cornstarch…

soy sauce thickener

…the mushrooms get coated in a lovely, glossy sheen of mushroom gravy. My mom likes to add a little pat of butter to finish, but at this point I start tasting to adjust seasonings and forget all about butter in my mushroom euphoria.

magic mushrooms

I don’t always have scallions, but when I do, they are such a good add.

scallions portobellos

Once you start, it’s hard to stop sampling the juicy, meaty slices.

steamy magic mushrooms

You can pile them on anything from bread or pasta, salad or cooked greens, chicken or burgers.

magic mushroom toasts

Or just serve them as a vegetable dish, with a generous handful of chopped cilantro for fresh herbal contrast. Parsley would be just as good.

mushrooms cilantro

I wouldn’t have believed my kids could get excited about mushrooms for dinner, but they do now. My 13-year-old took about three bites to devour his mushroom and fried egg sandwich, with more mushrooms on the side, while my 11-year-old deliberately savored every mouthful of her portobello-cheddar omelet.

Magic, for real.

mushrooms cilantro

Magic Mushrooms
Silky slices of portobello in a luscious mushroom gloss, this preparation simply showcases mushrooms at their earthy, meaty best.

Ingredients

  • 12 oz portobello mushrooms (about 3 large caps)
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 scant teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil (avo)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced scallions (green onions)
  • Salt to taste (1/4-1/2 teaspoon kosher)
  • 1 teaspoon butter (optional)
  • Parsley or cilantro, for garnish (optional)

Preparation

  1. Rinse mushrooms briefly in cold water and dry them off. Trim stems and, if mushrooms are very large, cut the caps in half. Slice into 1/4-inch slices (my mom likes to slice at an angle, which makes broad, meaty slices – see pictures).
  2. In a small bowl, mix soy sauce with cornstarch, pressing out lumps with a spoon.
  3. Heat cooking oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, stirring briefly, then sliced mushrooms and scallions. Use a flat spatula to turn mushrooms occasionally. Cook just a few minutes, until mushrooms lose their raw stiffness and surfaces look slick. Mushrooms will release some liquid as they cook, and you’ll want to stop cooking before they shrink much.
  4. Add soy sauce-cornstarch mixture, turning the mixture gently for a minute until sauce thickens. Stir in butter and remove mushrooms to a serving dish. Garnish with parsley or cilantro.

Notes

  • Substitute white button or brown cremini mushrooms if you like.
  • There are so many good uses for these mushrooms: burger topping, omelet filling, with melted cheese over crostini. But you can also just enjoy them over a bowl of rice, greens or polenta – especially with a fried egg on top.
  • For a vitamin D boost, let your mushrooms bask outside in the sun after you purchase them. Gills up – cap upside down – is most effective, but even if you just stick the container outside, it will work (inside is no good, as glass filters out the UVB rays needed to stimulate vitamin D production). Mushrooms will retain the vitamin D boost even after storage and cooking.

Serves 4.

Here’s the link to a printable version.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Liz 26 April 2015 at 8:09 am

Wow, looks amazing! This reminds me how much I love mushrooms. Will be making soon!

Reply

cg 30 April 2015 at 12:33 am

hi liz – hope you enjoy it!!

Reply

Deanna 28 April 2015 at 3:34 am

I just discovered your blog today but I just want to say you can some beautiful photos! I mostly love your philosophy and reasoning behind why you chose to call your blog, Chinese Grandma. It really touches home! Thank you!
http://www.feastofstarlight.com

Reply

cg 30 April 2015 at 12:32 am

thank you deanna! it can be a confusing name, but i love it too. =)

Reply

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