RECIPES: Phenomenal fungi can create mealtime magic

Mushrooms can be the centerpiece in salads, appetizers and entrees. Pictured (clockwise from left) are Chicken Paillard with Sauteed Mushrooms, Loaded Baked Potato with Shiitake "Bacon," Enoki Mushroom Fritters, and Mushroom and Celery Salad. (Virginia Willis for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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Mushrooms can be the centerpiece in salads, appetizers and entrees. Pictured (clockwise from left) are Chicken Paillard with Sauteed Mushrooms, Loaded Baked Potato with Shiitake "Bacon," Enoki Mushroom Fritters, and Mushroom and Celery Salad. (Virginia Willis for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Mushrooms are popping up at grocery stores, farmers markets, the pharmacy, and even on the streaming service Netflix with its hit film, “Fantastic Fungi.” They are being touted as mood enhancers, plant-forward meat replacements, and as functional foods that benefit the brain and nervous system. Mushroom advocates report tremendous health benefits from everything from lowering high blood pressure to reducing body mass index and even the size of cancerous tumors.

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Multiple companies around the world are developing innovative fungal solutions to combat toxic waste spills, pests and disease. The Smithsonian Magazine recently reported that mushrooms may communicate with one another using electrical impulses. The WebMD website references that “some mushrooms can potentially prevent age-related dementia.” It seems there is nothing that mushrooms cannot do and gives a whole new meaning to the term “magic mushrooms.”

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Mushrooms have been used by humans for thousands of years as food and medicine. More than 14,000 species of mushrooms are recognized, and among them, approximately 2,000 are edible. Mushrooms can be excellent additions to our daily diet. They are high in protein, fiber, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, and low in fat, calories and cholesterol. The meatiness of mushrooms is a result of both their toothsome texture and high umami content.

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If mushrooms have been recognized for thousands of years, why the recent groundswell of support? Only recently have scientists had the technology to study fungi more fully and to explore the hidden, mysterious realms of mycelium that lie beneath us in the earth, mostly invisible to the naked eye. In the kitchen, mushrooms have benefited from increased consumer demand for functional foods, foods that have a potentially beneficial effect on health beyond basic nutrition, promoting optimal health and aiding in reducing the risk of disease.

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For many years, the only mushroom variety found in the grocery store were white buttons. Then, portobello popped onto the scene, along with its diminutive version, cremini (aka baby bella). Shiitake found a foothold, and now, many traditional grocery stores offer these three of four more common mushrooms. (Interestingly, these more common mushrooms can be eaten raw. Not all mushrooms can be eaten raw as they can cause gastrointestinal distress and all benefit nutritionally from being cooked.)

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As a result of recent science and changing demographic patterns, it’s increasingly common to see more exotic varieties at gourmet and farmers markets, as well as kits for growing your own. Mushroom cultivation has exploded in the past few years. There are multiple farms in Georgia that grow shiitake, oyster, lion’s mane, and reishi. Various logs and spawn inoculated with mushroom spores are available at local farmers markets as well as online.

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My local Whole Foods regularly has a selection of maitake, enoki and trumpet, in addition to the more common varieties. Also, many local Asian markets offer a wide and exciting variety of mushrooms.

This collection of recipes uses the more commonly available mushroom varieties. I also encourage you to mix and match to see what kind of mushroom magic pops up in your kitchen.

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More than 2,000 mushroom species are edible. Commonly consumed mushrooms include: (top row, left to right) white button, oyster and enoki; (center row, left to right) portobello and cremini, maitake, and king trumpet; and (bottom row, left to right) shiitake, white beech and brown beech. (Virginia Willis for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Virginia Willis

More than 2,000 mushroom species are edible. Commonly consumed mushrooms include: (top row, left to right) white button, oyster and enoki; 
(center row, left to right) portobello and cremini, maitake, and king trumpet; and
(bottom row, left to right) shiitake, white beech and brown beech.
(Virginia Willis for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Virginia Willis

caption arrowCaption
More than 2,000 mushroom species are edible. Commonly consumed mushrooms include: (top row, left to right) white button, oyster and enoki; (center row, left to right) portobello and cremini, maitake, and king trumpet; and (bottom row, left to right) shiitake, white beech and brown beech. (Virginia Willis for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Virginia Willis

Credit: Virginia Willis

Common mushrooms and their culinary uses

White button: White button mushrooms are mild in flavor, blend well with most ingredients, and have a flavor that intensifies when cooked.

Portobello and cremini: A lovely brown mushroom with a slightly earthy flavor that mixes well with other mushrooms. Firm flesh stands up to long cooking times. When cooked, portobello mushrooms have a chewy, meaty texture and a smoky, earthy flavor.

Shiitake: Shiitake mushrooms have a dense, chewy texture. They are intensely flavored and can be somewhat tough. The stems are so tough that they must be removed before cooking. Add the stems to stocks and broth.

Enoki: Enoki mushrooms are long and slender. Most often white, they grow in bouquets of tightly packed stems topped with tiny caps. Enoki have an earthy flavor and can be somewhat stringy due to their long fibers.

Oyster: Delicate, with petal-like caps growing out of a central group, oyster mushrooms are slightly chewy with a mild flavor. It’s not as common to see these in a supermarket, but you might find them in a packet of “gourmet mixed” mushrooms.

King trumpet: Also known as French horn mushrooms, these meaty shafts are the largest in the oyster mushroom family. With thick white stems and small brown caps, they are great for slicing lengthwise into plants or into medallions for cooking.

Beech: Beech mushrooms, also known as shimeji, are a variety of Asian mushrooms with a crunchy texture and nutty, savory flavor.

Maitake: Maitake mushrooms are a lacy bouquet also known as hen-of-the-woods. They have a delicate yet earthy flavor.

RECIPES

Add magic to mealtime with these fungi recipes. Meaty mushrooms are the star of the plate with fun fritters; a zesty salad; a crispy plant-based “bacon”; and a hearty, healthy main.

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Enoki Mushroom Fritters. (Virginia Willis for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Virginia Willis

Enoki Mushroom Fritters. (Virginia Willis for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Virginia Willis

caption arrowCaption
Enoki Mushroom Fritters. (Virginia Willis for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Virginia Willis

Credit: Virginia Willis

Enoki Mushroom Fritters

These Korean-inspired fritters or pancakes are quick and simple to prepare. There’s no need to deep-fry them as they will cook in a thin coating of oil in the skillet.

Enoki Mushroom Fritters
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • 1 (about 5-ounce) package enoki mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely grated
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil, plus more if needed, for cooking
  • Line a plate with paper towels. Set aside.
  • Prepare the dipping sauce: Combine the soy sauce, sugar, water, rice vinegar and sesame seeds. Set aside.
  • For the fritters: Trim and discard the woody end of the mushroom cluster. Using your fingers, separate the mushrooms. Place in a medium bowl and sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms. Add the carrot and green onion. In a small bowl, beat together the egg and sesame oil. Pour the egg over the vegetable mixture and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Heat a well-seasoned cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Using a brush, thinly coat the bottom of the skillet in canola oil. Using a 1/4-cup measuring cup or scooper, scoop the mushroom mixture into the heated skillet. Fill the skillet without crowding. Press each fritter slightly to flatten. Cook until golden brown on one side, about 2 minutes. Using spatula, turn the fritters and continue cooking until golden brown on both sides and set, an additional 1-2 minutes. Remove to the paper-lined plate.
  • Repeat with remaining fritter mixture, adding more oil as needed. Serve warm with soy dipping sauce. Makes 10 fritters.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per fritter, including dipping sauce: 51 calories (percent of calories from fat, 53), 2 grams protein, 4 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 3 grams total fat (trace saturated fat), 19 milligrams cholesterol, 361 milligrams sodium.
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Mushroom and Celery Salad. (Virginia Willis for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Virginia Willis

Mushroom and Celery Salad. (Virginia Willis for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Virginia Willis

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Mushroom and Celery Salad. (Virginia Willis for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Virginia Willis

Credit: Virginia Willis

Mushroom and Celery Salad

The celery ceviche on the menu at the Betty in Buckhead features bright lemon, herbs and mushrooms. Inspired by this delicious salad, this recipe highlights the mushrooms and moves the celery to the supporting role. Serve this zesty, vibrant salad with lean grilled, baked or roasted meats such as chicken, fish or seafood.

Mushroom and Celery Salad
  • 8 ounces white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 4 stalks celery, thinly sliced on the bias
  • Zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 jalapeno, cored, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley
  • Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch sugar (optional)
  • 1/2 cup (about 3 ounces) feta cheese crumbles
  • Combine the mushrooms, celery, lemon zest, lemon juice, oil, jalapeno and parsley in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Taste and adjust for seasoning. If the dressing is too sharp, add a pinch of sugar. Add feta and stir to combine. Divide equally among 4 chilled plates. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 204 calories (percent of calories from fat, 77), 5 grams protein, 7 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 18 grams total fat (5 grams saturated), 19 milligrams cholesterol, 316 milligrams sodium.
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Loaded Baked Potato with Shiitake "Bacon." (Virginia Willis for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Virginia Willis

Loaded Baked Potato with Shiitake "Bacon." (Virginia Willis for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Virginia Willis

caption arrowCaption
Loaded Baked Potato with Shiitake "Bacon." (Virginia Willis for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Virginia Willis

Credit: Virginia Willis

Loaded Baked Potato with Shiitake “Bacon”
  • 16 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and thinly sliced
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 medium russet potatoes
  • Light sour cream, for serving
  • Chopped green onions, for serving
  • Prepare the shiitake “bacon”: Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a nonstick silicone baking sheet or with aluminum foil. If using aluminum foil, spray with nonstick cooking spray. Scatter the mushrooms on the prepared sheet. Spritz with nonstick spray, then season with smoked paprika, garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Using your fingers, toss to coat. Transfer to the oven and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 45 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool.
  • When ready to load up the potatoes, increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees. Rinse the potatoes under cold running water and wipe dry with a clean towel. Spritz with nonstick spray and season the outside with salt. Place in the oven and cook until tender when pierced with a knife, 45-60 minutes.
  • To serve, split the potatoes in half lengthwise. Load each with sour cream, green onions and equal portions of the reserved shiitake “bacon.” Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately. Serves 2.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 254 calories (percent of calories from fat, 5), 10 grams protein, 56 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams fiber, 1 gram total fat (trace saturated fat), no cholesterol, 105 milligrams sodium.
caption arrowCaption
Chicken Paillard with Sauteed Mushrooms. (Virginia Willis for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Virginia Willis

Chicken Paillard with Sauteed Mushrooms. (Virginia Willis for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Virginia Willis

caption arrowCaption
Chicken Paillard with Sauteed Mushrooms. (Virginia Willis for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Virginia Willis

Credit: Virginia Willis

Chicken Paillard with Sauteed Mushrooms

It’s certainly easy to purchase pre-sliced mushrooms, but try quartering mushrooms for a completely different mouthfeel. This recipe scales up easily, simply cook the chicken in batches.

Chicken Paillard with Sauteed Mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds total), pounded to slightly more than 1/4-inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, stem ends trimmed, then quartered
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Place the flour in a shallow dish and season with salt and pepper. Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper.
  • To cook the chicken, in a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Dredge both sides of the chicken in flour, then shake off the excess flour. Without crowding, add the chicken to the skillet, and brown on both sides, 2-3 minutes per side. When measured with an instant read thermometer, the temperature should register 165 degrees. Transfer to a warm platter and cover loosely with aluminum foil to keep warm.
  • To make the sauce, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet. Return the skillet to the heat. Decrease the heat to medium. Add the wine and, using a wooden spoon, loosen any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the mushrooms, shallots and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender, 8-10 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Spoon the mushrooms over the chicken and serve immediately. Serves 2-4.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving, based on 4: 319 calories (percent of calories from fat, 34), 41 grams protein, 9 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 11 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), 124 milligrams cholesterol, 82 milligrams sodium.
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