What Defines a Choice Mushroom
Choice mushrooms are marked by a number of characteristics. The term is best applied to wild mushrooms as, in contrast, cultivated commercial varieties lack the flavor and freshness of their wild relatives. Choice wild mushrooms should be evaluated primarily on flavor of the mushroom when prepared and firmness of texture.
Porcini, also known as King Bolete or Boletus edulis, is a remarkably choice mushroom. The flavor is rich and nutty, while the texture is wonderfully firm. Even upon cooking, the flesh does not soften but retains its inherent crispness. The golden red-brown color of the cap is a fine compliment to the buttery flavor and aroma.
The chanterelle, (Cantharellus cibarius) another choice edible wild mushroom, has a unique characteristic flavor. The mushroom is fruity and delicate when dry-sauted. The texture of the chanterelle is slightly chewy, but not rubbery, allowing for the flavor to be savored. Thus both flavor and texture are not by any means consistent in determining choice mushrooms. Each choice mushroom is excellent in its own manner.
Morels, Morchella species, are widely regarded as some of the most choice edible wild mushrooms of all. Their flesh is thin yet firm, and is easily prepared into pieces of perfect shape to either serve alone or accompanying vegetables in a prepared dish. The flavor is rich and meaty.
The shaggy mane, Coprinus comatus, has a light buttery flavor and soft yet succulent flesh, making it a choice edible mushroom.
Meadow mushrooms, Agaricus campestris, have a firm texture and a classic mushroom flavor. The fact that they may be eaten raw as well as cooked adds appeal and makes the meadow mushroom a particularly choice edible.
Choice mushrooms typically have a flavor similar to meat or fish, or have a sweet or savory flavor. Flavor of choice mushrooms should be compliment the vegetables with which the mushrooms are paired and the other dishes alongside which the mushroom dish is served. Texture should be considered in context with accompanying foods. Firm-fleshed mushrooms are best paired with crisp vegetables such as minimally cooked carrots or broccoli while softer fleshed mushrooms should be combined with softer vegetables such as zucchini and onions.
There are no constant or concrete guidelines to choice mushrooms. Different textures are better suited to different flavors, and various flavors are pleasant in different ways. Yet wild mushrooms of rich, earthy flavor and firm texture are generally regarded as choice edibles.
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