Thank God for portobello burgers—they’re just as satisfying as thick beef patties,” said no one, ever. Mushrooms are flavorful, but they don’t release those fatty juices onto your tongue that make your taste buds almost pulsate with pleasure. The digestive system may be happier with a fungal burger, but the palate is not fooled. The trick is to appreciate mushrooms for what they are: earthy, filling, umami-packed and full of variety beyond the button and the portobello. Each type of mushroom has its own flavor profile, and each takes well to seasoning and preparation. Here, three chefs show how to make the most of three different kinds.
CHEF GABE ROSEN
“Mushroom yakitori is pretty typical in Japan,” says Rosen. At Biwa, he cuts the stems off shiitakes and skewers them crosswise. Then he lightly brushes them with a mix of canola and sesame oils, salts them and grills them cap side down until just cooked through, about three minutes. “You get the pure and true flavor of mushroom with really great texture,” he says.
CHEF JUSTIN SMILLIE
New York City
“It’s this generation’s bloomin’ onion,” says Smillie. To prepare a maitake (pictured above), he heats canola oil to 350 degrees and fries the mushroom whole, moving it with tongs to submerge every side until golden and crispy, about three and a half minutes. Then he drains it on paper towels and salts it. At Upland it’s paired with Cloumage cheese. “It’s rather acidic and cuts the earthy pungency of the mushroom,” Smillie says, adding that you could use crème fraîche or even ranch dressing instead. “I love ranch. I’m not going to deny my youth!”
CHEF NICHOLAS ARNERICH
“Lobster mushrooms bring a hint of the sea,” says Arnerich. “There’s a little brininess to them, and they have good depth and great texture.” Chefs at Renata dot a big lobster mushroom with butter, season it with salt and pepper and then roast it at 475 degrees for about 15 minutes. Sautéed corn kernels and lovage greens serve as a kind of chunky sauce. “These mushrooms can be large and meaty, so this dish acts as a whole entrée.”