Mushrooms by any other name
Mushrooms have come a long way. Nowadays, there are more exotic varieties, both fresh and dry, sold at most grocery stores.
But the white, cremini (brown) and portabella mushrooms are most common. These are all a part of the Agaricus bisporus species. Botanically speaking, cremini mushrooms are simply the brown version of the common white cultivated mushroom. You can also think of them as older than the white mushroom. The smaller, white button mushroom is the youngest variety, and the larger, portobello mushrooms are older.
So the cremini fall in between. In many recipes, cremini mushrooms sometimes will be be referred to as “Italian mushrooms.”
At stores, you will find creminis sold in packages, usually 8 ounces. They are also sometimes labeled “baby bella mushrooms.” The caps are light tan to brown.
When choosing mushrooms, according to www.mushroominfo.com, look under the cap: “A closed veil under the cap indicates a delicate flavor, while an open veil and exposed gills mean a richer flavor.” But keep in mind exposed gills in smaller mushrooms mean they are getting close to their prime.
Creminis are my go-to mushroom for most recipes. I find their flavor heartier and earthier than that of the white mushroom. Creminis are also more uniform in shape and size. The caps are about 1-2 inches in diameter. In most packages, you will find mostly all the same size.
Cleaning mushrooms: Another question that always pops up about mushrooms is how to clean them before using.
A lot of older recipes will call for washing or rinsing mushrooms under cold water. Many people think that if they do this, the mushrooms will absorb too much water.
Mushrooms are like sponges and can absorb water that could release in whatever dish you are making. But this isn’t the case if you’re just cleaning the mushrooms and using them right away. If you soak them, however, they will absorb the water and won’t brown properly.
Many recipes say to wipe whole mushrooms clean with a damp paper towel or cloth. You can also brush them clean with a fancy mushroom brush gadget if you have one. Either method is time-consuming, so a quick rinse under water is OK. Wipe them dry after rinsing.
When buying whole loose mushrooms, choose ones that are smooth, without dark spots. They should feel dry and firm, not mushy or slimy.
Mushrooms should always be stored in the refrigerator. Keep them in their original packaging or loosely in a paper bag. For best quality, use them within a week.
Don’t store any mushrooms in an enclosed container or in a sealed plastic bag, which can lead to condensation and cause them to spoil.
If you’ve never tried creminis, this recipe is good one to try. It’s one of my favorites and uses a good amount of mushrooms.
Chicken Marsala With Crispy Prosciutto
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes
All-purpose flour, for dredging
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 thin skinless, boneless, chicken breasts (about 11/4 pounds)
3 ounces prosciutto, cut into pieces
12 ounces cremini or white mushrooms, washed, thinly sliced
1 cup sweet Marsala wine
1/2 cup chicken stock or reduced sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
On a shallow dish or in a pie plate, put a heaping 1/2 cup of flour and season with a few big pinches of salt and pepper along with the dried basil. Mix together to combine.
In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter and 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. When hot, dredge both sides of the chicken piece in the seasoned flour, shaking off the excess. Slip the chicken into the pan and cook about 4 minutes on each side until golden. Remove the chicken to a platter to keep warm. Add the prosciutto pieces to the same skillet and saute until just crisp. Use a slotted spoon to remove the pieces and place on same plate as chicken.
Add the mushrooms to the same skillet and saute until they are tender and the moisture has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper. Increase the heat, add the Marsala and cook a few minutes while stirring and scraping up any browned bits in the bottom of the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium and add the chicken stock or broth. Continue simmering to reduce the sauce slightly. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and return the chicken to the pan to warm it. Let it simmer for a few minutes just to heat the chicken through. Season with salt and pepper if desired.
Arrange chicken, mushrooms and sauce on a platter. Sprinkle the crispy prosciutto on top and garnish with chopped parsley.
From and tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen. Nutrition information not available.