White button mushrooms. According to most people, that’s the Jeopardy answer for “What is the most boring food on the planet?”
I don’t agree. No, they do not have the power and depth of shiitakes or the incredible otherworldly flavor of morels. But that’s not always what you’re looking for.There are times when they are just perfect… meaty, not overly assertive, and just plain tasty. In a salad. In soup. On crostini. The list goes on forever. But, I have a secret—a very old fashioned way to deal with mushrooms. It will forever banish any notion you have that white button mushrooms are bland or boring or flavorless.
Whenever I see a big sale on white button mushrooms at one of the grocery stores I frequent, I buy WAY too many. This may seem counterintuitive since we all know that if mushrooms stay in your fridge even a day too long, you will discover a dark mucilaginous pool lurking in your veggie drawer. But, there is a way to avoid that AND to bring months of concentrated mushroom flavor (and its attendant umami boost) to all of your food: duxelles.
French? Fancy sounding? Bound to be difficult? Yes to the first two and a resounding no to the third. Duxelles could hardly be easier.
All you need to do is clean the mushrooms with a paper towel. Chop them fine in a food processor. Squeeze as much liquid out of them as you can into an old kitchen towel. (I say old because getting the mushroom “dye” out of your towel can sometimes be a hassle. So just don’t use your newest, prettiest one!) Then, in a large skillet, with a little butter or oil, start to saute them. What you’re aiming for is dry. At some point, add some salt, pepper, some fresh thyme if you have it, perhaps a minced shallot, and a splash of port or sherry. Keep sauteeing until dry and crumbly looking. That’s it. Done.
What you now have is essentially mushroom concentrate. You can add small amounts of this to pasta sauces, risottos, pan sauces, gravies, soups, eggs, or anything else that could benefit from a major mushroom hit. And you can wrap it tightly and freeze it for months. I will confess to you that I have even found a small bit of it in the freezer that was over a year old… and it was still virtually as tasty as the day I made it.
I know that I often want a mushroom hit in something, but, because fresh ones perish so quickly, I don’t always have them in the house. With duxelles, that is never the case. And another benefit—I know some people don’t like the texture of mushrooms, and that ceases to be a problem when you use duxelles.
If you are a mushroom lover like me, try this. The time investment is minimal, and you probably have everything but the mushrooms in your pantry. And the first time you add a soupcon to something, you’ll be amazed at the depth and richness you get from those plain old boring white button mushrooms.
GET THE RECIPE: Duxelles of Mushrooms