Some recipes call for sautéing your mushrooms first. The most famous reason was shown on the movie ‘Julie & Julia’ when the actresses portray Julia Childs making her famous Boeuf Bourguignon recipe. If you haven’t watched that you should, but that’s a whole other discussion for another day. Back to mushrooms and why it is important to follow the recipe instructions on cleaning and cooking.
First, mushrooms are grown commercially in a mixture of dirt that is full of nutrients it needs, but you don’t necessarily want in your dish. You will want to remove that dirt as best as you can without using water. Water is a last resort! Simply dampen a paper towel or cloth and wipe away any excess dirt. Or you can purchase a little brush to help do that. This will help to get into any of the mushrooms that have started to open and caught excess dirt in their gills.
Second, mushrooms are like little sponges that hold liquid. When you start cooking them, they release this liquid. If that happens in a recipe you can end up with something soggy. For instance, on pizza, it can cause the toppings to retain liquid and give the crust a soggy bottom. Same for meat pies that call for mushrooms. No one likes a soggy bottom! So, just be sure to read your recipe and cook your mushrooms accordingly.
Third, to get color on your mushrooms while cooking you have to give them room to breathe. When you crowd the mushrooms into a pan, they will release all the liquid and then cook in that liquid. This will give them a slightly (I don’t want to say slimy, but it’s true) softer outside texture. This is ok if you are just cooking a bunch that are chopped into large pieces as a side dish, but not if you are cutting them thinner for topping burgers. Instead of throwing them all in at once heat your pan with a light coating of oil. Place a thin layer of mushroom slices onto the surface and allow to cook. Flip each piece over so they cook on both sides. You will know they are done when they get a pretty golden-brown color. Set the cooked ones aside until all the mushrooms needed are cooked. You can then use them as your recipe calls for or I like to place them back into the pan together and sauté in a little butter to finish them off.
Finally, once they are cooked you can use right away or store in an airtight container in your fridge for later use. They keep about a week in the fridge. Now you can easily grab some sauteed mushrooms for that breakfast egg dish you are craving, top your mushroom Swiss burger, add them to pizza, or get fancy and make boeuf bourguignon. Enjoy!