Who doesn’t love rich, buttery mushrooms? But mushroom are world-champion butter-sponges. In my endless quest to have the foods I love without the heavy fat burden, I tackled the mushroom many years ago. It took some experimentation, but this method delivers all the taste, no extra work, and ends with about ½ teaspoon of butter per serving. The trick? Add the butter when it counts.
You can’t brown a dry mushroom very well, even in a non-stick pan. Without added fat, they tend to shrivel and dry in the pan. But if you add fat, the mushrooms just suck it up and ask for more … or they shrivel and dry in the pan, anyway. But they can be tricked with water.
Slice your mushrooms. They do shrink as they cook, so make your slices about twice as thick as you want the final result. Put them in a non-stick, or well-seasoned cast iron pan, and add a bit of water. I usually start with a couple of tablespoons per serving — just enough to create steam.
Cover your pan. Use medium to high heat to keep the water at a light boil, with plenty of steam. Stir occasionally, and cook until the mushrooms are almost tender, 3-5 minutes. Add more water, a little at a time, if necessary to keep plenty of steam. Remove the cover, but keep sauteing the mushrooms until the water evaporates.
Once the water is gone, brown the mushrooms, stirring constantly. The now-cooked mushrooms will brown quite nicely. I usually push them to the side of the pan at this point, or even remove them to a plate while I finish the rest of the meal. (If you remove the mushrooms, return them to the pan and reheat before the next step.)
Here’s the real trick. Add about ½ teaspoon of butter per serving to the hot, cooked mushrooms immediately before you remove them from the pan. Stir quickly and serve.
The water saute process is shown below. Click any photo for a larger view.
I’m not a food scientist, or a cooking pro of any variety, but here’s what I think explains the wonderful flavor of mushrooms cooked this way: the water/steam softens and cooks the mushrooms, and evaporating the water allows any flavor that escaped to migrate back into the mushrooms. Adding the butter at the last minute keeps the butter flavor on top — it’s the first thing our taste buds pick up, so little is needed.
Give this method a try. I actually prefer mushrooms prepared this way to regular sauteed mushrooms — not because they are healthy enough to be eaten often, but because they taste better. Really! Try it and let me know what you think.