Alex Guarnaschelli Blogs: My Method For Delicious, Simply Cooked Mushrooms

02/16/2016 at 02:38 PM ET

Alex Guarnaschelli's Roasted Hen-of-the-Wood Mushrooms with Reduced Balsamic Vinegar
Alex Guarnaschelli; Inset: Kevin L

Alex Guarnaschelli is an Iron Chef, Food Network celebrity chef, author of Old-School Comfort Food and the executive chef at New York City’s Butter restaurants. Read her blog every Tuesday to get her professional cooking tips, family-favorite recipes and personal stories of working in front of the camera and behind the kitchen doors. Follow her on Twitter at @guarnaschelli.

One of my favorite things about mushrooms is how delicious they become from simple roasting.

I love hen-of-the-woods mushrooms in particular. They are not a wild mushroom but they are deliciously nutty in flavor and very easy to deal with. While they are pricey, their yield (with the exception of the little tough stem) is 100 percent!

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Here is my favorite recipe for them and keep in mind that you could easily use this method of roasting with cremini or white button mushrooms instead.

Roasted Hen-of-the-Woods Mushrooms with Reduced Balsamic Vinegar

2 cups balsamic vinegar
1 lb. hen-of-the-woods mushrooms
4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper

1. Make the reduced balsamic vinegar: Over medium heat, reduce the balsamic in a (stainless steel) medium pot over low heat until there is about ¾ cup liquid remaining. The stainless steel is a good non-reactive metal so the vinegar does not pick up any metallic notes as it reduces. Take care not to reduce quickly or it can easily burn. It should be slightly syrupy. Remove from the heat and transfer to a stainless bowl (or any heatproof bowl) to cool before drizzling.

2. Cook the mushrooms: Arrange the mushrooms on a baking sheets in chunks and drizzle with olive oil and salt. Place the tray in the oven and cook until tender, 15-20 minutes. Break the mushrooms into smaller pieces (but not too small). Toss with some reduced balsamic and taste for seasoning. You can also top a seated steak with these mushrooms or make a “meaty” vegetarian entree by topping a bowl of quinoa or braised white beans with these babies.

Now mushrooms can be intimidating. White buttons, creminis are decently priced but others are expensive and become an investment.

Here are a few of my favorite rules for mushrooms but fasten your seat belts because a few of them are controversial to some.

Washing mushrooms? I always learned never to wash them but to simply wipe dirt off with a damp kitchen towel. But what if they are really dirty? If they are, I wash them thoroughly just before I am about to cook them. Blasphemy, I know, but not if done just before cooking. That way, the water (which dilutes their flavor) that is absorbed from washing is mostly immediately drawn out from cooking. Who wants to eat dirt anyway?

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What about the stems? I hate not to eat the whole thing. While shiitake mushrooms really have an inedible, tough stem that I only put in vegetable or chicken stock, I otherwise use the stems. I trim and discard the dirty, gritty end only and leave the stem intact for white buttons, Portobellos, creminis and oyster mushrooms.

How do I know when they are cooked? Mushrooms take longer than you might think to be fully cooked and often taste better when they are given more time on the stove. I wait to see that it has visibly given up liquid (like portobellos) or when they are slightly darker in color, somewhat reduced in size and if the pan sizzles as if there is no excess water left to cook out.

Can I eat any mushrooms raw? I love white button mushrooms peeled of their outer skin and served raw in slices, in a salad. My dad always made that when I was growing up tossed with some arugula, lemon and olive oil. Sprinkle some grated Parmesan on there and you’re off to the races.

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The Latest Craze in Disco Styles Is See-Through Jeans—but Beware of Foggy Bottoms
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The Latest Craze in Disco Styles Is See-Through Jeans—but Beware of Foggy Bottoms

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On a clear day, you can see forever—or at least that’s the wicked thought behind L.A. designer Agi Berliner’s transparent idea: see-through jeans. Exhibitionists notwithstanding, most folks wear them over bathing suits or as attention-getting evening wear with halters, garter belts and body stockings. Created for the disco crowd, the $34 jeans are selling like, well, hot pants. In just six weeks, 25,000 pairs have already been sold in such major department store chains as Macy’s, Bonwit’s and Saks.

“What’s limiting American designers is that we’re afraid to do something different,” says Berliner, 32, a Hungarian émigré who fled with her family to the U.S. in 1956. Agi thought up the gimmick in London while marveling at the way plastics were being employed by designers of punk fashion. In her L.A. office, where she designs for La Parisienne junior sportswear, Agi spent five days on the phone and six weeks testing to come up with the right plastic.

Agi herself tried out the French-cut jeans with the zipper in front, and quickly found several problems: Some plastics tore away from stitching, others wouldn’t bend and all fogged with perspiration. The ideal material proved to be a vinyl supplied by a bookbinder. The steam was eliminated with a series of vents behind the knees and in the crotch. “They’re no hotter than polyester pants,” claims Agi, “and if you wear them with tights, they won’t stick to your legs.”

Whatever the discomfort and despite the problem of Saturday night feverishness, discomaniacs report one major advantage of the plastic pants: no laundry bills. To keep Berliner’s see-through jeans clear, all the wearer needs is a little Windex.

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Olivia on

Hen of the woods are wild mushrooms! They can be cultivated as well but are harvested in the wild in the late fall (also referred to as Maitake).

Donnell Vonderheide on

jade green fascinator on

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