If you like mushrooms, you need this book. If you’re not sure about mushrooms, you probably need this book. If you love cooking, learning in the kitchen, and books that provide some challenge, this book is also a wonderful addition to your shelf. I have completely enjoyed reading Shroom: Mind-bendingly Good Recipes for Cultivated and Wild Mushrooms by Becky Selengut.
I have a mushroom confession. I never used to buy mushrooms. If a recipe called for mushrooms, I dutifully bought white button mushrooms, as they were the only ones I knew from watching my mom cook. I was a little scared of them, and sometimes they grossed me out. That texture! Those fins! Yeeps. When I started this blog, I began branching out. Cremini mushrooms (which are just baby portobellos) were much more readily available, and I discovered that I loved them. If I ventured up to Ranch 99 Market, a huge Asian grocery store here in Southern California, I would sometimes buy something more exotic, like maitakes. But I truly didn’t know what to do with them until I read this book. Shroom will teach you everything you need to know about cooking wild and cultivated mushrooms. For instance, I did not know that white button mushrooms, creminis, and portobellos are all versions of the same mushroom species. Button mushrooms are chosen for their white color, creminis are brown, and portobellos are the same mushroom allowed to grow very large.
Layout and design:
The large hardcover book uses heavy, coated paper to provide beautiful color images of the finished dishes. The book’s Introduction provides many informative (and amusing) sections about mushroom cleaning, storage, and prep, including tips on how to freeze, dehydrate, and rehydrate various types of mushrooms (and which ones she does not recommend for a particular technique). The 75 recipes are built around each type of mushroom, and include two easy recipes, two intermediate recipes, and one recipe for advanced cooks or chefs. She clearly defines what she means by each category. Chapters include Button/Cremini/Portobello, Beech, Oyster, King Trumpet, Shittake, Maitake, Lion’s Mane, Morel, Chanterelle, Hedgehog, Porcini, Lobster, Black Trumpet, Truffle, and Matsutake mushrooms. Back matter includes “Why eating random wild shrooms is a really really bad idea,” “Other shrooms worth eating,” Bibliography, Mail Order Resources, Metric Conversions, and the Index.
Full-page gorgeous color photographs by Clare Barboza appear every three page spreads or so, giving the book a luxe feel and definitely selling the recipes.
Intriguing recipes include bahn mi sandwiches with red curry roasted portobellos and pickled vegetables, bread pudding with seared beech mushrooms and thyme, spiced basmati rice with shiitake mushrooms and garbanzo beans, grilled asiago and fig stuffed morels with vin cotto, and hedgehog mushrooms and cheddar grits with fried eggs and Tabasco honey.
What I liked about the book:
Each chapter starts with a detailed fact sheet about that specific mushroom, including other names, season, buying tips, cleaning, storage, drying/freezing tips, loves (foods it pairs well with), cooking notes, substitutes, and “nerdy factoids.” Each recipe includes a wine pairing by sommelier April Pogue. Multiple how-to videos demonstrating techniques used in the book are provided on the book’s website.
I wasn’t so keen on:
Recipes were not coded for special diets; nutritional analysis is not provided, which would be helpful for low-sodium eaters.
Adventurous cooks who want to learn more about mushrooms; there are recipes in the book suitable for paleo, vegetarian, and gluten-free diets (although they are not labeled)
Not recommended for:
Migraine or low-sodium diets
A note about my cookbook reviews: In the past, I tested at least three recipes from each book, took photos, and described my experience. Due to my dietary limitations (extremely-low-sodium for my Meniere’s Disease and trigger-free foods for migraine relief), it is no longer possible for me to test the recipes and do them justice.