The Cheap-Ass Gourmet: First Aid for Mushrooms
Oh, the horror. Oh, the heartbreak and suffering…
Picture it: you’re standing in your kitchen at a few minutes past 5 p.m., jar of Dr Smiter’s Seizure Salad Dressing at the ready, your heart set on a nice tasty salad for your supper.
Lettuce – check. Cucumber – check. Tomatoes, radishes, peppers, dill/parsley/tasty leafy bits, olives, feta – check.
And then you grasp the paper bag of mushrooms you bought…oh, when was it? Monday? Last week? On Aunt Eulalia’s birthday? And inside, you find not the nice firm, white, mouth-watering button mushrooms to which you were looking so forward, but a sad, wilted little nest of creatures that look like they recently lost a fight with a tanning bed.
The bad news is your salad will be mushroom-less (unless you really feel like nipping out to the supermarket for more).
The good news is that with a bit of ingenuity, you can actually re-purpose your ailing little fungal pals and use them for something else later.
Yes, I know this sounds like frugality gone awry, but let’s face it, food (especially produce) is expensive, and throwing use-able things out is like flushing money down the toilet. I once saw someone throw out half a roast of beef, telling me that her children and husband (who needed a good swift Smiting, IMHO) simply wouldn’t touch leftovers, so what was the point of keeping it? I can still hear my own screams, all these years later….
Anyway, what you’re going to do is put these little fellas out of their misery, by cooking them so that you can use them later in things like omelettes, spaghetti sauces — or pretty much anything that calls for cooked mushrooms.
But… we are not going to fry them: if you’re anything like Dr Smiter, you probably already get lots and lots of lovely butter & olive oil in your diet (send my butt an email if you’re in doubt: it will vouch for me!).
No, instead, we shall (brace yourself) nuke them. Cheap, quicker than falling off a bike, and with no addition of extra fat & oil to whatever you make with them later.
Note that this resuscitation technique will not work if your mushrooms are really, really dried out and leathery (if they’ve been in a paper bag) or if they are slimy and smelly (from being in a plastic bag); if either of those conditions exist, say a brief prayer to the Fungus God and deliver them unto their maker via the compost heap.
If all conditions are good, however, roll up your sleeves and prepare to administer Mushroom First Aid.
You will need:
- the poor sad little mushrooms
- a tiny bit of water
- a microwaveable bowl
- a cover for that dish
- a microwave (nyuk nyuk)
Wash and slice the mushrooms the way you normally would for a salad or sauteed mushrooms — but leave them a bit wet. I also make the slices a little bit thicker, since they’ll be going into a sauce or an omelette. If they’re already quite opened (i.e., if you can see the pretty brown frills inside them, under their caps) they may be hard to slice thinly, in which case just halve or quarter them.
Put all the bits in your microwaveable bowl — it should be big enough that you can cover it completely without any of your mushrooms bulging out.
Add a small sprinkle of water, cover the dish, and nuke the thing on high for 1 minute.
After that minute is up, take the bowl out, uncover it carefully (let the steam escape away from you, unless you relish the thought of an evening in the ER explaining why the skin is peeling off your hands) and toss the mushrooms around with a spoon to redistribute the water. Microwaves cook a bit unevenly and you want to make sure all the pieces are done.
Re-cover the bowl, put it back in the microwave and nuke it for another minute. Uncover it again (see above) and your ‘shrooms should be pretty much cooked by now. If not, blast ‘em for another 30 seconds and check them again.
When they’re done, take them out of the microwave and give them a stir. I let them sit and cool for about half an hour if I’m not using them immediately, stirring them occasionally to make sure they all stay nice and moist.
There will be some liquid in the bottom of the bowl; drain that away before you use or store your ‘shrooms. They keep in the fridge for 3 to 4 days, in a covered bowl or Tupperware.
And you can go buy yourself a nice latte or something with the few bucks you saved by not chucking out food.
I shall end this Frugal Moment with a joke that I have been saving for just such a moment: Why did the mushroom ask the other mushroom out on a date? (Because he was such a Fun-gi. [get it? Fun-guy?]) (No, Dr Smiter is not giving up her day job just yet.)
And for those of you who don’t know how to make a decent omelette, stay tuned!