A brilliant speciality food store can excite a cook's mind like nothing else, whether the shop curates salt, cheese, chocolate, or, in the case of San Francisco's Far West Fungi shop in the Ferry Building, mushrooms. Our adventure was inspired by an almost surreal mushroom assortment, ranging from lacy and delicate to ponderously dense, from bright orange to fawn brown to black.
What could we do but order a variety box for our Test Kitchen? Soon the package of woodland treasures arrived. More than a dozen exotic varieties saturated the kitchen with aromas of wood and loam.
The recipes here offer a taste of the fun we had—days of recipe research and development.
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Texture: Delicate, with a bit of chew; cooks down to a soft texture
Taste: Bright and nutty, faintly eucalyptus-piney
Recipe ideas: Sauté and combine with firmer vegetables or scrambled eggs, or toss into pasta or risotto.
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Sautéed Black Trumpets with Asparagus and Lemon
This is as simple—and delicious—as it gets: earthy mushrooms, crisp asparagus, and a wee hit of citrus to bring it all together. Because it's both robust and delicate, this side would go with pretty much any entrée.
Taste: Sweet and meaty, buttery, between steak and scallop
Recipe ideas: Sauté, stir-fry, pickle.
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Texture: Spongy, sweetbread-like, absorbent
Taste: Concentrated chicken glacé or roast chicken skin flavor with a hint of crabmeat, intensely meaty, faintly livery
Recipe ideas: Roast with butter; sauté.
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Roasted Lion's Mane Mushrooms with Sherried Shallots
Lion's mane mushrooms are an amazing discovery—incredibly meaty, with a faint, almost livery nuance—so this dish plays off the classic liver-and-onions combo with sweet and tangy shallots. Serve as a light entrée with a fall salad and crusty bread, or as a hearty side dish with robust meats such as lamb or beef.
Recipe ideas: Golden color is lovely in sautés, stir-fries, or pickles.
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Pickled Wild Mushrooms
These garlicky numbers are mouthwatering by themselves, and they can also take a salad, cheese board, or burger to another dimension. You can substitute most any mushroom; just trim them accordingly. The earthy pickles taste great after one day, but if you can wait three or more days, they get even better. Store in the refrigerator for up to one month.
'Shroom subs: Pretty much any mushroom will work here; just trim or slice to fit the jar.
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Texture: Delicate and sponge-like with hollow caps
Taste: Deeply earthy-nutty
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Texture: Meaty and firm
Taste: Bright and strongly earthy
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Texture: Chewy, snappy, springy
Taste: Roasted dark-meat chicken, nutty essence
Recipe ideas: Sauté and toss in potpie, pasta, risotto, or tacos.
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The recipe title here is a playful pun, taking its cues from the pronunciation of the star ingredient. Mushrooms and chiles play surprisingly well together, and this peppy concoction highlights the maitake's robust, roast chickenlike flavor.
Recipe ideas: Applications where the sticky coating aids in thickening, such as soups or sauces for pasta
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Texture: Firm, like an artichoke heart
Taste: Sweet hints of seafood
Recipe ideas: Versatile, great to toss into soups, sautés, or roasted dishes
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Nameko and Lobster Mushroom Soup
This brothy soup was a home run at taste testing. Mushrooms and bacon have always been good friends, and here the nameko's sticky film gives depth and body to the smoky broth (which is inspired by Momofuku chef David Chang's bacon dashi). You can make the broth in advance; it will keep in the refrigerator for several days.
'Shroom subs: For the nameko: enoki, pioppini (though broth will have less body). For the lobster: maitake, fried chicken, shiitake