Umami rich, earthy, and nutrient packed, mushrooms are the quintessential plant forward food. Mushrooms have been eaten around the world since ancient times. They were also eaten by kings and aristocrats of Europe and the emperors of Japan and China, while the more common varieties found a place in peasant food. Champignons have been a chef’s go-to ingredient since the Roman times. Fungi were not only popular in Europe, but they were also consumed centuries ago in Middle and South America.
As a young chef in training (little did I know), I harvested wild mushrooms such as Golden Chanterelles, Morels, and Hen of the Woods on my grandparent’s farm in Central NY. And as a young professional cook, I learned how great they are to cook with and add flavor, texture and deep earthy umami notes that compliment dishes like Veau Ragout, Fricassée, Duxelles, and Bordelaise sauce just to mention a few French classics. I would be negligent if I didn't mention a few of my favorite dishes featuring Custom Culinary® products like Eggs Benedict with Mushroom Hollandaise, Mushroom Strudel, or Mushroom French Toast featuring Gold Label® Mushroom Base, Roasted Garlic Concentrate or Gold Label® Hollandaise Sauce.
While mushrooms have been gaining popularity as a super food in recent years, mushrooms are a gastronomic superstar in their own right. It’s true that mushrooms were at the forefront of the trending influence in 2019, but now these delightful culinary treats are going to reign even more in 2020 and beyond. Mushrooms provide meat-like flavor for plant-based and plant-forward dishes. Diners are craving more plant-forward meals, and with mushrooms’ inherent umami, diners still get the brothy, rich, meaty flavor they crave. With mushrooms, they can still savor the meaty flavor and will fully be gratified.
I am fortunate enough to travel to many different countries due to the nature of my profession, I'm seeing more cooks and chefs feature a variety of umami rich mushrooms to their menus, highlighting the "Functional Foods" trend. Mushrooms allow chefs to add extra taste without increasing sodium or fat. They have become attractive as a functional food due to their antioxidant, antitumor and antimicrobial properties.
Mushrooms are becoming more important in our diet due to their nutritional value, high protein and low fat / energy contents. The mushroom protein contains a rich source of nutritionally useful essential amino acids required by humans. In addition to their good protein content, mushrooms are a relatively good source of other nutrients like phosphorus, iron and vitamins, including thiamine, riboflavin, ascorbic acid, and niacin. They are not only sources of nutrients but also have been reported as therapeutic foods, useful in preventing diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia and cancer. These special fungi can do some amazing things for your energy, brain, hormones, and immune system. No pizza required.
To recap my thoughts, mushrooms are beautiful to the eye, its own genre of superfood, easily adapt to a wide range of cuisines and cooking methods creating unique dishes. Mushrooms are delicious, nutritious and a medicinal powerhouse. I hope you've been inspired to add this awesome ingredient to your culinary repertoire.
Richard A. Reilly
Corporate Executive Chef - CEC, CAA, AAC
Custom Culinary, Inc.