Monday, October 26, 2009

Ruhlman on Mushrooms

Simple advice is sometimes the best:
But for cultivated mushrooms, which is what most of us work with, everyday mushrooms, I always go with really high heat—a smoking hot pan, plenty of neutral oil. Most cultivated mushrooms—the ubiquitous white button, oyster mushrooms (above), shiitakes—don't have a big flavor on their own. It's up to the cook to elevate that flavor. You do this by browning the mushroom, and you can only accomplish this at a temperature that's so hot, the moisture in the fungus doesn't have time to start falling out. Once that happens, as soon as water gets into the pan, the temperature drops to 212 degrees and you can't get any more browning. All you get is lots more moisture. Another way to drop the temperature of your pan is to put too many mushrooms in it. The key to really tasty mushrooms is high heat and not crowding the pan.

I am a big fan of mushroom (and Gruyère!) omelets these days... a simple and quick dinner or breakfast, but my mushrooms are somewhat inconsistent as I've never been completely sure how I should cook them... I think I usually end up somewhere in the medium to medium high range, since it never really occurred to me that I should be searing them. Who needs to be told how to cook mushrooms? Well... me.

This is the type of thing you can miss if you're trying to learn to cook from recipes. I'm not sure someone who has no, or minimal, experience in the kitchen can just take ratios and advice like this and start making magnificent dishes... but it does help illuminate how recipes can be a barrier to understanding.