Mushroom foragers will tell you that nothing gives them greater satisfaction than finding a trove of morels, chanterelles, oysters and other varieties. They’ve long ago forsaken the buttons cultivated in dank cellars, though a button will always do if the choice is “button or nuttin."
Since I began cooking professionally I’ve discovered that mushrooms are a lot like uni (sea urchin). People either love it or hate it. There is no in-between. If you’re a hater, try the recipe at the end of this article. You’re likely to change your mind.
Personally, I’ve never foraged for wild mushrooms, but I’ve obtained them through various means and used them countless times as accompaniments and, in some cases, as the centerpiece of some of my dishes. I have purchased mushrooms from people who are experienced foragers (and cultivators) and I highly recommend it, especially if you don’t know how to recognize the various toadstools that will sicken you.
There are a number of clues to whether or not a wild mushroom is or isn’t toxic and here, in general, are some of those: First, if it has a parasol shape, avoid it at all costs. Second, if the gills (those radii on the bottom side of the cap) are white, do not eat it. Third, if there are rings around the stem, that’s generally a sign of toxicity. And lastly, if you were to turn the mushroom upside down and press the cap lightly against a piece of paper, it will leave spores behind.
I hope I haven’t spoiled your appetite, writing about poison. The surest way to avoid the danger is to buy your mushrooms from a professional forager; a cultivator; or your supermarket.
Here’s one of my favorite mushroom recipes. I use cremini mushrooms. Creminis are baby portobello mushrooms. They are quite flavorful and easy to find.
CRAB-STUFFED CREMINI MUSHROOMS RECIPE
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup mayonnaise plus 1 tablespoon
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 pound crabmeat (shell bits removed)
- 1/4 cup dry seasoned bread crumbs
- 24 good size cremini mushrooms, stems removed
- 2 tablespoons half and half
- 1 teaspoon Old Bay seafood seasoning
- Butter a 10×15 baking dish. Combine 1 egg, 1 heaping tablespoon of mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce and a quarter teaspoon salt in a bowl. Whisk to blend.
- In another bowl, combine crabmeat and breadcrumbs. Pour egg mixture over crab mixture and mix gently.
- Stuff mushroom caps with crab mixture, mounding in the center and pressing gently to adhere. Arrange stuffed mushrooms in the prepared baking dish. Bake about 18 minutes in a preheated 375 oven — until mushrooms release their juices.
- Meanwhile, whisk remaining egg, 1 cup mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and half and half in a small bowl. Remove mushrooms from the oven and drizzle each with sauce, then sprinkle with Old Bay seasoning.
- Bake until mushrooms are tender and sauce thickens slightly, about 8 minutes.