We are lucky to live as close as we do to Kennett Square, PA, a lovely suburban community not far from Philadelphia that is also known as — wait for it — The Mushroom Capital Of The World. Lucky because purveyors from Kennett Square frequent local farmer’s markets — like the West Windsor Community Farmer’s Market, a fantastic Saturday market just minutes from our home — with pint after pint of both common and exotic varieties throughout the year. We’re never far from fresh, flavorful mushrooms and the farmers who are excited to talk about the varieties they grow.
We’ve long been enjoying mushrooms from Davidson’s Exotic Mushrooms — we last wrote about them in our Butternut Squash and Chicken Risotto with Sautéed Leeks and Mushrooms post — but were happy to see Princeton’s own Shibumi Mushroom Farm join the vendors at the farmer’s market this year. Mushroom junkies like me love to try new strains and species, and Shibumi focuses on cultivating proprietary fungi grown indoors on artificial logs that use no animal products or pesticides.
Since mushrooms are used in dishes around the world and have long been served at mealtimes on all contents, they seem like the perfect ingredient for this globally-inspired family. I’ve been on a bit of a mission to get The Stout Sprouts to try mushrooms under the presumption that trying may eventually lead to liking. Mushrooms, I’ve found, are one of those foods that improve with age…and by that I mean there is a direct correlation between age and likelihood to consume mushrooms, with the lowest correlation occurring at the youngest ages (some might even say there is a negative correlation during those early years, with mushrooms actually repelling the youngest eaters with a polarizing force akin to an atom splitter).
Sure, we could simmer the mushrooms in a kid-friendly cream sauce or mince them finely and hide them in a burger, but my husband and I want our daughters to experience mushrooms as mushrooms. To appreciate their rich umami taste and the flavor variations of different mushroom types. And, after having cooked up several batches of my favorite sautéed mushrooms with shallots and thyme already this year, we made another batch this weekend specifically for them to try.
Daughter 2 and I chose a mix of mushrooms from the farmer’s market and then I got her involved in the kitchen, helping me stir the mushrooms as they sautéed and adding a generous knob of butter and several pinches of salt before serving. And while I can’t claim total success this time — she “touched them to her tongue” and declared them yucky — I am extremely proud of Daughter 1 who, for the first time, agreed to try them…and liked them! Actually, what she really said was that she “liked them, but didn’t love them,” and then went on to describe them as meaty, squishy, and tasting a “little bit like under-grilled meat…but I like under-grilled meat.” And for some reason, that thrilled the rare meat lover in me.
We used a mix of Davidson’s crimini, shiitake and oyster mushrooms in this dish and combined them with some lovely lemon oyster mushrooms from Shibumi (almost too pretty to eat!). I personally think a mix of flavors is what makes this recipe a keeper, but you could easily make it with whatever mushrooms you find at your market. Just try to avoid any varieties that are too watery or they won’t sauté very nicely. The secret ingredient here is a tried and true mushroom companion: a couple of tablespoons of dry sherry with which we deglaze the pan after the mushrooms and shallots have cooked down. And don’t forget to add some fresh herbs at the end to finish things off.
This is a great side dish. Super easy to make and ultra flavorful next to some grilled meat, or even served over grilled bread or brown rice with a splash of olive oil. I had mine this morning for breakfast with a poached egg. Yum. These can easily be served as part of a vegetarian spread or, if you substitute additional olive oil for the butter, as a vegan dish as well.
I hope your sprouts give this a try. The magic age in our house appears to be six — anything under that cut-off resulted in turned up noses. But someday, I think, we’ll be serving this much more frequently to kids and adults alike and that already has me happily considering the mushroomy possibilities.
My Favorite Sautéed Mushrooms With Shallots And Thyme
1 tablespoon unsalted butter cut into two equal pieces
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 large or 2 – 3 medium shallots, thinly sliced or diced
1 pound mixed mushrooms, sliced (varieties could include shiitake, oyster, cremini, or your personal favorite, but I suggest avoiding particularly large or watery varieties like portobellos)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus additional to taste
2 tablespoons fino (dry) sherry
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Begin by heating a large nonstick sauté pan over medium heat. Add 1/2 tablespoon butter and the olive oil and, when the butter has melted and the pan is hot, add the shallots. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are soft and slightly caramelized — about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and 1/2 teaspoon salt and continue to sauté, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have cooked down and begin to lightly brown — another 15 minutes or so. Reduce the heat to medium low if the mushrooms begin to burn.
When the mushrooms have given up most of their liquid and have cooked down, deglaze the pan with the sherry, stirring well as it evaporates. Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter and the thyme leaves and cook for another 2 – 3 minutes. Turn off the heat, add an additional pinch of Kosher salt if the dish needs it, and some freshly-ground black pepper to taste. Serve hot.
Serves: 4 as a side dish
Kid rating: three stars. This is how I’m interpreting Daughter 1’s “like it, don’t love it” comment, though she did go back for a couple more mushrooms after finishing the small portion I served her. Daughter 2 wouldn’t eat them, though I’ve already begun counting down the days until she’s six (that magic age when I think she may give these another try). But, I intend to keep making and serving this dish, hoping both girls will grow to like it as much as I do.
Parent rating: five stars. I “love it,” frequently making these sautéed mushrooms for any willing eater who is over that magic age of six. They are easy to make and very versatile as a side dish or even a main dish component. My husband often asks for these as an accompaniment to grilled steak, grilled chicken, or anything else coming hot off the coals. I even made these a couple of weeks ago when my sister visited and we served them over short grain brown rice with a side of tomatoes and mozzarella. Add a splash of olive oil and vinegar and I’m in heaven.