The fresh white mushroom is one of the most underrated and underappreciated items in the produce aisle, according to David Burke, executive chef and co-owner of David Burke & Donatella in New York. Burke visited “Today” to share recipes using fresh, affordable, versatile, ordinary white mushrooms.
Why white mushrooms?
They have great flavor and go with just about everything. They have a meaty taste and texture so they're perfect for meatless dishes. They're easy to prepare — just rinse and wipe, or you can buy them pre-washed — and they're available year-round.
How about nutritional value?
Besides being low in calories and carbohydrates, mushrooms are virtually free of fat and sodium and have no cholesterol, and are far more nutritious than people think. As well as supplying fiber, mushrooms contain three essential B-vitamins: riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid. They contain more selenium than any other produce item. Studies have shown selenium to be associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer. They are also a source of potassium, a mineral that is vital to maintaining normal heart rhythm and muscle and nerve function. Not bad for a fungus.
Historically, who first starting using them?
The French have a long-running love fest with white mushrooms and are credited with figuring out how to tame them nearly two centuries ago, around the time Napoleon's chef got to work in the kitchen. By the end of the 1800s, commercial cultivation was underway in the limestone quarries surrounding Paris and, as a result, French-trained chefs down to our own day are apt to refer to fresh, white mushrooms as “champignons de Paris.” Now, Pennsylvania is the leading producer, accounting for more than half of the mushrooms sold here.
Any tips for preparing them?
Because of the high water content, some chefs and home cooks prefer to saute, grill or roast mushrooms first to remove some of their water and concentrate the flavor — even if they're headed for the soup or stew pot.
How do you clean mushrooms?
Mushrooms can be cleaned by wiping them with a damp paper towel or quickly rinsing and wiping dry to remove the bits of growing medium (no, it's not what you think — those little brown specks are sterilized peat moss!). Now you can even get them already cleaned and sliced, which can be a real time-saver. And you can use the stems, which makes them even more economical.
How do you store them and how long do they last?
Always store mushrooms in their original packs unopened, or in a paper bag. Never store them in a plastic bag — condensation can collect and the mushrooms will get slimy. When buying fresh white mushrooms, select the ones that are intact and firm. Avoid those that are wrinkled, slimy, ragged or spotted. They will stay fresh for up to 7 days in the refrigerator and can also be frozen, if necessary. To freeze, place raw mushrooms on a tray in the freezer. When frozen, store in a container in the freezer.
For more information, check out www.davidburke.com.