Dreaming about mushrooms all night long

Yesterday, for dinner, we had mushrooms. I like mushrooms, and growing up my father was into gathering chanterelles in the cathedral-like forests of the Pacific Northwest, but I’d always sort of taken them for granted and put little thought into using them in our meals. But yesterday, on a whim, I decided to try portobello caps as yet another meat substitute, and I was blown away. I ended up having dreams about more mushrooms, which may be a weird sign that the fungus is taking over my brain.

Anyway, they were perfect, savory and with a light texture, and it’s more likely that they just tasted so darned good rather than that hyphae are infiltrating my brain stem. My recipe is easy: get some big ol’ portobello caps, put them lamellae side up on a baking sheet, and pour in a mixture of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and garlic. Let ’em soak for a half hour, then bake at 450°F for half an hour. For the last 5 minutes of that, add some shredded cheese, let it get all melty, and serve directly from the oven.

Wow. It was so good. I limit my trips to the grocery store (Remember? COVID-19? It’s not over) which means I can’t go again until next weekend, but I’m definitely stocking up on more mushrooms next time.


  1. kestrel says

    Wonderful! That is a favorite pastime of mine: wandering the woods looking for fungi. I too dream of mushrooms.

  2. jack16 says

    Why don’t you gather your own? I used to do this. Not so sure I remember the safe ones now.

  3. HappyHead says

    The availability of a wide variety of fresh mushrooms is the biggest thing I miss about going to the local farmer’s market. The ones from the grocery store just aren’t as flavourful.

  4. stroppy says

    I guess there are some varieties you can grow at home. I once bought some frozen mushrooms at the supermarket. That was an unpleasant mistake.

    It sticks in my mind that “Yan Can Cook” featured a mushroom themed restaurants in one of his shows, but I can’t find it. There must be restaurants here that also rely heavily on fungi.

  5. JoeBuddha says

    I used to hunt Chanterelles and Morels all the time as a kid. Morels are harder to find but have a better flavor. Chanterelles could be found in great numbers, before people started picking them to sell. My family once got about 5 gallons on one trip; the ground was yellow with them and it was just us. They can very well as well.

  6. hillaryrettig says


    We had a giant rainstorm last night, and, as a mushroom forager, my only thought was, “Terrific!”

    During lockdown, we’ve been able to buy amazing mushrooms from a vendor who normally only sells to restaurants.

    Recommend Adam Haritan’s Learn Your Land video series for aspiring foragers.

  7. blf says

    MUSHROOMS! whispers the mildly deranged penguin, running across the ceiling, head upwards, feet paddling the air. MUSHROOMS!! MUSHROOMS!!! Her whispers easily win any contest with the yacht air-horns in the harbour, or a nuking-from-orbit.

    MUSHROOMS!!1! Sadly, I wasn’t able to get any today, the immediately-local organic shop was inexplicably closed. This was partly remedied by sharing some wine at the local vin shop with the shopkeeper.

    MUSHROOMS!!!!! Whilst some can be vicious — says the mildly deranged penguin, who has an impressive arsenal of MUSHROOM!-hunting equipment (elephant guns are pea-shooters in comparison) — they are quite tame to compared to peas. And, of course, have taste, which strongly suggests MUSHROOMS! taste better. Which they do, even the canned yucky variety I myself mostly grew up on in the States.

    I recall an incident many yonks ago when I returned after living in Europe for awhile to visit some relatives in the States. By that time — due to a mixture of cooking for myself in University plus exposure to “European” (if I may be so vague (please bear with me!)) cooking — I’d learned the Joy of Fresh MUSHROOMS!

    On a shopping trip to the local supermarket, I homed in on the (mediocre) selection of fresh MUSHROOMS! and began choosing a kilo or three’s-worth. My relative was horrified: Some could be toadstools! Some (slightly exasperated) questioning revealed they though the MUSHROOMS! monde was divided into two types: “Safe” canned things, and dangerous toxic (poison) almost-everything-else (called toadstools). They weren’t too convinced by my (probably incredulous and ill-tempered) explanation that was batshite nuts, but did allow me to cook them a MUSHROOMS!-based dish (don’t now recall precisely what, probably a soup?). Which they and the other relatives all said they enjoyed (and probably did as there were no left-overs, a point I weirdly recall distinctly).

    MUSHROOMS!!!!!1!! Along with cheese, and pineapple-on-pizza, and even duck (provided you can stuff it in the oven despite its complaints (a duck-proof armoured suit is highly recommended)), is one of the glorious foods of the world. Just be sure to carry the right equipment when MUSHROOMS!-hunting (it’s a bit embarrassing to come back empty-handed and mauled by snarling fungi).

    I now live in France, where MUSHROOMS!, along with cheese, vin, and yes, snails — along with many many other tasty things — are practically a religion, minus the sky faeries but certainly with culinary magic. MUSHROOMS! are so prized that during MUSHROOMS!-hunting season, MUSHROOMS! are literally rustled (stolen) from wildlands and farms where they are found (this is not a joke!).

    (The mildly deranged penguin says to point out MUSROOMS!-hunting kit is rarely effective against horses, and usually just irritates peas.)

  8. Jazzlet says

    If you have limited access to mushrooms they will keep for longer and more safely if you store them in mesh bags in a cool airy place. The worst that will happen is that they will dry out, at which point you can rehydrate them with plain water or stock, and they will be fine to eat. If you keep them in plastic or even paper bags they can get other fungi growing on them, and most of that will not be human friendly.

  9. JustaTech says

    A few years ago my mom was volunteering at a urban farm that grows produce for the city’s food banks when the compost pile suddenly sprouted morels all over. She and the other volunteers asked the head gardener if they should pick the mushrooms. “Oh, oh no, we can’t give those to clients, we didn’t plant them. How do you know they’re safe?”
    Well, there aren’t any false morels in this part of the world, but the rules say you can’t hand out stuff you didn’t intentionally plant, so then the volunteers asked “Well, can we have them?” “If you’re sure they’re safe and you promise not to get mad if you get sick, sure.”

    My mom took home an entire paper grocery bag of morels. A grocery bag! I was quite sad that I couldn’t make a trip to visit before they all got eaten.

  10. cafebabe says

    Don’t forget, people, that although you can eat any kind of mushroom, for many varieties you can only eat them once!

    In Australia there is a mushie, (Amanita Phalloides), locally known as the “death cap mushroom” which apparently is visually similar to a highly prized variety found in China. Couple of years ago one of our Chinese students served them up as a treat for three of his colleagues. Result: three dead and one permanently brain-damaged.

    Take care, people.

  11. says

    PZ: how much of the vinegar/oil/garlic mixture do you add? Fill to the brim? Enough to wet it down? (And, for that matter, approximately what proportions should you use for the mixture?) It would probably taste pretty good anyway, but I know from experience that excess balsamic vinegar + high temperature = clouds of acrid smoke pouring out of the oven vents.

  12. steve1 says

    I grew up in Illinois and I used to mushroom hunt there. I live in Florida now which is poor mushroom foraging area. Unless you want psychedelic mushrooms. That is another issue. Such as farmers, trespassing on farms, bulls (yes, they grow on cow pies), and cops. I remember using the foolproof four for identifying edible mushrooms. This list may vary but for me it was Hen in the woods, Puffballs, Shaggymanes, and morels. There are a ton of LBM,s (little brown mushrooms). Which I would stay away from even the experts struggle identifying these. I found the death caps (Amanita phalloides) one year in a Wisconsin park. I couldn’t help but pick them they were so cool. I was told I couldn’t pick mushrooms in the park. I didn’t know. I apologized and offered the mushrooms back and told them they were poisonous. They didn’t want them back.

  13. stroppy says

    Reminds me of the mushrooms of doom episode of Elementary

    “A Study in Charlotte”
    A professor and a group of students are killed when they consume mushrooms tainted with synthetic deathcap mushroom toxin. Sherlock questions the professor’s former associate, Austin Harper, who said that although they had a falling out, they had made their peace. The professor’s stash leads them to another body, Charlotte Koenig. Figuring that Charlotte was the intended target, they continue the investigation and discover that Charlotte was producing counterfeit erectile dysfunction pills in exchange for property. The property was strategically located to try to squeeze money out of a pharmaceutical company that Charlotte felt had stolen her idea and profited hugely off of it. Sherlock and company eventually discover that the very same Austin Harper was actually married to Charlotte and stood to gain millions by selling the property to the pharmaceutical company. Meanwhile, Joan decides to deal with the noisy next door neighbors and discovers that the neighbor has turned his residence into a short-term rental catering to the loud and rambunctious set, all as revenge for Sherlock and Joan’s repeated disturbances of the peace over the years. After a fire breaks out at the residence, Joan uses the brownstone’s security cameras to prove that it was arson, thus ensuring the neighbor gets the insurance money. She also gives him a flyer on soundproofing, which they are offering to pay for, as well as a jar of honey from Sherlock’s honey bees. The title refers to the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novel A Study in Scarlet

    Yeah, I watch too much TV.

  14. mightybigcar says

    Hey @The Vicar, I’m trying this tonight. I’ll let you know how it works out.

  15. mightybigcar says

    OK, here’s the results on three portobellos that had been in the fridge 2 or 3 days (too hot to fire up the oven previously). I eyeballed a 2:1 oil:vinegar mixture to about the volume I thought needed, chopped 2 cloves of garlic fine, added those to the mixture, and whisked the heck out of it with a dinner fork. I spooned this into the mushroom caps (lamella up, as PZ says) to three different levels: dry; just to the top of the lamella; and wet (above the top). I let them sit for the specified 30 minutes, occasionally visiting them and tipping the latter two to help spread the mixture evenly across the shroom. In the meantime, the oven and a well-seasoned cast iron pan were pre-heated to 450. I plopped the mushrooms into the pan, stuck it in the oven, and waited 25 minutes. At 25 I pulled them out, shredded some Monterey jack cheese onto them, and put them back in for 5 minutes.

    Result: 30 minutes at 450 was a bit long in this setup – the tops of the mushrooms were burnt where they were in contact with the pan. Not badly, but it did detract from the overall flavor. The middle mushroom (mixture to the top of the lamella) came out best – the drier one was a bit crispy, and the wet one was OK but kind of soggy. I think more garlic might have helped, too, or crushing the garlic to get more of the flavor in.

    Despite all that, this was definitely worth the effort. We’ll try it again, with some changes in the technique: using a pizza stone; using the cast iron pan again but lower temp and/or shorter cooking time. Once I’ve got the technique down, I’ll mess with sprinkling some spices into the mixture.