Mushrooms & Ginger

I was talking to my mom about making sausage the other day and I mentioned how I like to add ginger into my pork sausage.  “Is there anything you don’t put ginger in?” she asked.

Well, yes, but the reason I put it into so many things is that it is really a versatile spice.  Matching equally well with the sweet and the spicy, it just works well in lots of settings.  One of my favorite places for using ginger is definitely sauteed mushrooms.

Pictured here with a slice of Southwestern Sweet Potato Bake, a recipe I developed for Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, mushrooms sauteed with ginger are a quick and easy side for just about any meal of the day.

I always start with crimini mushrooms.  In Pittsburgh, at least, these mushrooms are available in bulk from just about every grocery store at a lower cost and with more flavor than your typical white button mushroom, which makes them the better choice from both budgetary and culinary perspectives.  Today, I also had some beautiful maitake mushrooms from Wild Purveyors and the mushroom share that they offer via Kretschmann Farms CSA.

The first step for any saute is to have a hot pan and hot, seasoned oil.  Adding the spices into the hot oil infuses it with flavor and gives your spices more impact because they are part of the foundation of the dish.  I use at least 3 Tbl of butter, bacon grease, or vegetable oil.  Avoid olive oil for the stovetop because it doesn’t perform well at high temperatures.

Freshly cracked black pepper and powdered ginger are a mushroom-must-have.  I’ll often add a bit of Aleppo pepper, as well.

Fresh in the pan, the mushrooms absorb the oil—and the flavor—like a sponge.  Resist adding more oil unless your shrooms really start to stick.  As they cook, they shrink and can’t hold as much oil, so they release it back into the pan.  Adding more oil at this stage can cause you to have your shrooms swimming in fat later.

You can see here how the shrooms have shrunk quite a bit and how they are starting to take on a bit of color.  This is a good phase to add more mushrooms to the pan.  I avoid stirring my mushrooms too much as they cook, preferring to leave one side in contact with the pan to start to caramelize, then flipping them over.  This technique requires a lower heat, though a bit more cooking time, as compared to your standard culinary school advice of high heat and constant attention.

The raw maitakes have a beautiful, earthy aroma as they cook.  The enthusiastic mycophagist begins to salivate as he smells this, imagining the umami that they will add to his plate.

These delightfully golden mushrooms are ready to serve!

I do highly recommend the Southwest Sweet Potato Bake!  Once you slice the sweet potatoes, it is practically effortless to make.  I use my mandolin to cut the yams, but you can also do it fairly easily by slicing them in half the long way and putting the flat side down on your cutting board to give you a stable surface to work with.

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