Quick pickling, paté preserve fresh mushrooms

The Whole Dish podcast: Mushroom duxelles is a delicious, make-ahead dip or spread

For a bulk batch of ragu, my husband recently rounded up several No. 10 cans of tomato products, 3 pounds of ground turkey and nearly as many button mushrooms. Will just happened to hit Medford’s Food 4 Less on a day that produce-section staff marked down a mess of mushrooms, packaged in house, to a $3.99 flat price.

But pressed for time during the holiday rush, he elected not to clean, chop and cook the fungus, leaving the lot for another dish — one with A LOT of mushrooms. Cream of mushroom soup? Stroganoff? We tossed around a few ideas until I mentioned duxelles, essentially mushrooms finely chopped and sautéed with onion, garlic, herbs and A LOT of butter. The end result is essentially a paté made of fungus, not meat.

What to do with the mixture? At its most straightforward, duxelles is a thick, intensely savory dip or spread. It can be stuffed into pastries or folded into eggs, swirled into pasta sauce or slathered onto pizza dough. It goes equally well in grilled cheese or quesadillas. And it freezes really well, constituting an effortless, make-ahead appetizer in the cook’s back pocket.

Speaking of pockets, I encased some of the duxelles with a knob of soft goat cheese in puff-pastry triangles for an impromptu New Year’s Day snack for football watching. Some guys do nachos and beer; mine likes a flaky turnover with an off-dry Riesling. (OK, sometimes he likes nachos and beer.)

The quasi-preservation method that is duxelles safeguards my jar in the fridge for at least a week. But I could have extended the shelf life of some those mushrooms with quick-pickling.

I confess that I never thought to pickle a mushroom before stumbling upon a story about Japanese cuisine that moved late last year on news wires. The recipes were inspired by the erstwhile San Francisco restaurant Mingei-Ya, which published a cookbook in 1969. Traditionally, this condiment is made with shiitakes, a uniquely earthy variety particularly suited to pickling. But in the era of this “Japanese Country Cookbook,” shiitakes were largely unknown in the United States, so cremini – baby portobello — mushrooms are the suggested substitute.

Or if you’ve got a plethora of plain, old button mushrooms on hand, a bath in pickling liquid couldn’t hurt. And this pickle takes less than 20 minutes, much less time than duxelles needs on the stovetop.

Tribune News Service

Pickled Fresh Mushrooms

1 cup vinegar, preferably rice or sherry vinegar

1 cup soy sauce

1 cup granulated sugar

Salt, if desired

1 pound mushrooms, shiitake or cremini, halved or quartered if large

In a pot, combine the vinegar, soy sauce, sugar and salt, if using. Bring to a boil. Add the mushrooms and boil for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove mushrooms from liquid and serve hot or cold.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe adapted by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from “Japanese Country Cookbook,” by Russell Rudzinski.

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