Meaty. Earthy. Velvety. Woodsy. Mushrooms are versatile enough to add a certain flavorful finesse to a dish as a supporting ingredient or steal the show on your plate as the star. They tend to be pushed to the forefront of restaurant menus and grocery store produce sections in the fall, and keeping track of the different kinds can be a little daunting. Want to become a fall fungi aficionado? Here’s how to identify five popular types of mushrooms and some recipe suggestions if you’re curious enough to try your hand at cooking them in your own kitchen.
Fall is peak season for Chantrelle mushrooms.You may have noticed these babies in ingredient lists on your local restaurant menus recently. Foraged in the wild (they’re infamously difficult to grow domestically), they’re usually golden-hued with creamy or white stems and can be sold both individually or in their natural formations (that can weigh up to two pounds!). Chanterelles are toothsome and have a smooth texture with a woodsy flavor, likely attributed to the fact they grow on trees. They should be treated like the stars they are and allowed to shine in a dish, perhaps piled atop hearty toast smeared with fresh ricotta or sauteed with pasta, spinach and grated Parmesan.
You’ve probably spotted these in dishes at your favorite New American restaurant, but they were likely called “Hen O’Woods” or “Ram’s Head” mushrooms. They grow wild in the eastern United States during late summer and early fall, but they’re also cultivated so you’ll see them available earlier and later than that. They have a meaty texture and grow in large clumps, making them the perfect vegetarian substitute for steak when sauteed or grilled and seasoned just-right. Or, crisp them up in a pan and sprinkle them into soup, over eggs or over a root vegetable rémoulade if you want to get a little fancy.
Oyster mushrooms are fan-shaped and whitish-greyish in color, just like their bivalve namesake. They have a flavor profile that’s anise-like when raw and nutty when cooked, so they’re popular in Chinese and Japanese cuisines thanks to their high-level of umami. Pan fry them with some miso, scallions and a drizzle of sesame oil or mix them into a noodle stir fry.
Porcino is the singular version of Porcini, some of the most-sought-after mushrooms out there. Prized for their delicate, velvety texture and rich, earthy flavor, you can recognize them pretty easily thanks to their reddish-brown caps. It can prove difficult to find them fresh in the States though they tend to pop up for short stints, particularly on the coasts in the spring and fall. They’re more abundant in Italy and France so you might take a cue from those regions and incorporate them into a cream sauce poured over pasta, or dress up a batch of roasted chicken thighs with a generous dose of this fragrant fungus.
You almost definitely know them, and you probably at least tolerate them. A common raw or cooked addition to ubiquitous dishes like pub house salads and slices from corner pizzerias, White Button Mushrooms are overwhelmingly the most popular mushrooms in America. They’re usually around 1.5-inches long with a cream-colored stalk and beige top. Mild in flavor and relatively meaty in texture, they’re perfect for simple dishes like chicken Marsala or as toppings on classics like burgers and loaded fries.