Why Mushrooms in Butter is a Perfect Pairing
Mushrooms in butter is a classic pairing that brings out the best in both ingredients. Mushrooms have an umami flavor that is enhanced by the rich, velvety texture of melted butter. According to food scientist Harold McGee, “butter helps release volatile mushroom aromas and also has aroma compounds of its own that blend well with mushroom scents.”
When sautéed in butter over high heat, the mushrooms soften and become infused with the flavor of the butter, while the butter takes on an earthy, savory flavor from the mushrooms. The result is a simple but decadent dish that fills the kitchen with an intoxicating aroma and satisfies in just a few bites. As Chef Fergus Henderson says, “For mushrooms on toast, there really is nothing quite like a knob of butter.” A splash of lemon or wine added while cooking can provide a brightness to balance the richness.
Served on toast, in an omelette or as a side to meats, fish or pasta, mushrooms in butter are a versatile delicacy that comfort and indulge. Though comprised of only two main ingredients, mushrooms in butter can elevate any meal into an extravagant dining experience. Their earthy simplicity inspires memories of warmth, flavor and community.
Choosing the Perfect Mushroom for Your Dish
There are many varieties of edible mushrooms to choose from, each with a unique flavor, texture, and aroma. Selecting the right mushroom for cooking with butter depends on the experience you want to create. The options include:
Portobello mushrooms are meaty, large mushrooms perfect for burgers or as a vegetarian substitute. Their robust, savory flavor stands up well to the richness of butter.
Cremini and white button mushrooms have an delicate, earthy flavor and are more subtle when cooked in butter. They are an ideal choice if you want the butter to be the star of the dish. Cremini mushrooms are similar to white buttons but slightly darker in color and fuller in flavor.
Oyster mushrooms have a seafood-like flavor and delicate, oyster-shaped caps. They pair beautifully with butter and are a perfect garnish for fish dishes or seafood pasta.
Shiitake mushrooms have an savory, garlicky flavor and meaty brown caps. They are a popular choice in Asian cuisine for stir-fries and soups but also shine when sautéd in butter.
Morel mushrooms are highly prized for their smoky, musky flavor and sponge-like caps. Though more expensive, morels are worth splurging on to experience their sublime flavor when cooked in butter.
Chanterelle mushrooms have a fruity aroma and flavor and a golden, trumpet-shaped cap. They melt into a silky sauce when cooked in butter and are often served with eggs, cream or cheese.
Porcini mushrooms have an intense nutty and savory flavor. Though dried porcinis are more readily available, fresh porcinis are superb when simply sautéd in butter and seasoned with fresh herbs.
In summary, for cooking with butter, choose full-flavored mushrooms like portobello, shiitake or porcini if you want an hearty dish, or delicate mushrooms like chanterelle, oyster or cremini for a lighter meal. The possibilities for mushroom buttery bliss are endless!
Preparing Your Mushrooms for Cooking
Properly preparing mushrooms before cooking in butter is essential to enjoying their flavor and texture. Fresh mushrooms are very perishable, so select mushrooms that are firm, dry, and free of dark spots. Use them within 3 to 5 days of purchasing. Gently clean mushrooms just before cooking rather than washing and storing them, which speeds up decay.
Carefully wipe mushrooms with a damp paper towel or mushroom brush to remove any dirt. Avoid submerging them in water, which they readily absorb — this can make them soggy when cooked. For cremini, oyster, and shiitake mushrooms, you may need to use a paring knife or mushroom scraper to remove the thin remnants of mycelium (the vegetative part of a fungus) growing on the mushroom cap.
For porcini and chanterelle mushrooms, use a small brush to dust off dirt trapped within the wrinkles and folds. Check carefully under the mushroom caps as well. Any excess moisture or dirt left on mushrooms will inhibit browning when cooked in butter. Trim off the bottom 1/4 inch of the mushroom stem, which is usually gritty. For shiitakes, also remove the tough stem.
Slicing or Leaving Whole
Mushrooms can be cooked in butter whole or sliced. Slicing mushrooms allows more surface area to get caramelized and infused with the flavor of the butter. However, whole mushrooms make an attractive visual presentation. Consider how you will serve the mushrooms to determine whether to slice or leave whole.
For slicing, wipe mushrooms clean and place them on a cutting board with the cap facing up. Use a sharp knife and slice mushrooms evenly to your desired thickness. Mushrooms like portobello, cremini, shiitake and oyster mushrooms have caps that are suited to slicing. Chanterelles and porcini are best left whole due to their irregular shape.
Whichever preparation you choose, properly cleaning and trimming mushrooms before cooking in butter will ensure they become impossibly delicious when sautéd to perfection. With the simple addition of heat, butter, salt and pepper, you can transform mushrooms into an incredibly flavorful experience.
Mastering the Art of Cooking Mushrooms in Butter
Cooking mushrooms in butter requires little more than high-quality ingredients and a few simple techniques to achieve a decadent result. However, there are a few tips for maximizing flavor and texture:
Use a heavy pan, such as cast iron or pan with an aluminum core, for even heat distribution. Add 1-3 tablespoons of butter to melt over medium-high or high heat until the butter foams.
Do not crowd the pan with too many mushrooms, which will steam rather than sauté in butter. Cook mushrooms in batches if needed, adding more butter to the pan with each new batch.
Sauté mushrooms without stirring at first, allowing them to caramelize. Once browned, use tongs to flip and cook the other side, about 2 to 3 minutes total for white or cremini mushrooms, 3 to 5 minutes for portobello, shiitake or oyster mushrooms.
Spoon the melted butter over the mushrooms frequently as they cook. The butter will bubble and thicken into a slightly brown emulsion, infusing the mushrooms with flavor.
Season generously with salt and pepper just before removing the mushrooms from the pan. Fresh herbs (such as thyme, chives or parsley) can also be added at the end for extra flavor.
For extra decadence, deglaze the pan with a splash of wine or broth, stirring to scrape up any browned bits. Simmer until reduced by half, then swirl in a spoonful of sour cream or crème fraiche and fresh herbs. Pour the sauce over your mushrooms.
To serve, arrange your mushrooms in a shallow dish and top with the flavored butter from the pan. Garnish with fresh herbs and lemon wedges. Pair with toasted bread, egg dishes, or meats. Savor the earthy flavors of mushrooms mingled with the richness of butter at its finest!
Using these key techniques, you can easily achieve a restaurant-quality dish of mushrooms gloriously simmered in butter at home. Take your time to allow the flavors to infuse, keep your eye on the mushrooms as they transform in the pan, and you’ll be rewarded with a simple yet memorable feast.
Adding a Gourmet Twist to Your Mushrooms in Butter
While mushrooms and butter together is perfection in itself, adding a few extras can elevate your dish to restaurant quality. After sautéing the mushrooms, try any of the following additions:
Fresh or dried herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, parsley or chives, add flavor complexity without overpowering the earthy mushroom notes. Add 1/2 teaspoon fresh or 1/4 teaspoon dried herbs to the pan during the last minute of cooking, stirring frequently.
Lemon or lime juice provides a bright, tangy kick that cuts through the richness of butter and brings the flavors of the mushrooms to the forefront. Squeeze the juice from half a lemon or lime over the mushrooms before serving.
Shallots or garlic enhance the savory qualities of mushrooms and butter. Mince 2-3 shallots or 2-3 cloves of garlic and add to the pan in the last 2 minutes of cooking.
Wine or broth add flavorful liquid for deglazing the pan after cooking. Use 1/4 cup dry white wine, sherry or mushroom broth. Simmer until slightly reduced, then swirl in a spoonful of sour cream or crème fraiche (if desired). The resulting sauce has an intense mushroom and butter flavor that clings deliciously to each mushroom.
Pancetta or bacon provide a smoky, salty element. Cook 2-3 slices of pancetta or bacon with the mushrooms and then remove before serving. The rendered fat will infuse the mushrooms and butter with flavor.
Cheese such as goat cheese, Gruyere or parmesan melt into the mushrooms for a decadent finish. Add 1/4 cup crumbled or shredded cheese to the pan during the last minute of cooking, stirring frequently, until the cheese melts.
Using these flavor-enhancing additions, you can create mushroom and butter masterpieces to impress your guests. Keep components simple to allow the starring ingredients to shine through. Your kitchen will be filled with the intoxicating aroma of garlicky mushrooms and herbs swimming in butter. A comforting yet elegant dish to be savored.
Serving Suggestions for Your Delicious Dish
Mushrooms simmered in butter are extremely versatile and pair well with many dishes. Here are some serving suggestions to inspire your next mushroom butter creation:
On toasted bread – generously top slices of crusty bread with the mushrooms and melted butter from the pan. The bread soaks up the flavorful butter and provides a hearty base for the mushrooms.
In an omelette or scramble – add a few spoonfuls of mushrooms to eggs for a lavish breakfast or brunch. Their earthy flavor enhances egg dishes.
With steak – spoon mushrooms over grilled ribeye, strip steak or filet mignon. The savory mushrooms balance the richness of the meat.
On pasta – toss with fettuccine or linguine and parmesan cheese for a quick and decadent primavera pasta. Arugula or fresh basil make a fragrant garnish.
On polenta or mashed potatoes – serve the mushrooms as a topping or mix directly into the polenta/mashed potatoes. Melted butter and mushrooms make indulgent comfort food.
In a tart or galette – arrange mushrooms in a buttery pie crust with onions and cheese, then bake until the filling is hot and the crust is golden brown.
On pizza or flatbread – top with mushrooms, olive oil and basil for an earthy mushroom pizza or flatbread.
In a burger – load grilled beef or turkey burgers with garlic mushroom butter and cheese. Roll out the napkins for this delightfully messy burger!
As a snack or hors d’oeuvre – serve in a dipping bowl with crusty bread for dipping in the flavorful mushroom butter. Your guests will appreciate such a decadent treat.
With a variety of serving options, mushrooms in butter can be enjoyed for any meal or occasion. Their versatility allows you to create classic or unexpected pairings that will leave everyone wanting more of your delicious dish! Mushrooms in butter are worthy of being the star of the show.