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Mushrooms deliver a magical wallop of umami to soup, stews and sauces. When cooked correctly, their rich and decadent flavor most often associated with red meat gives vegetarian entrees a boost. Take Beef Bourguignon, the iconic French stew; when made with mushrooms, it is equally elegant.

To achieve such robust flavor and texture, the mushrooms must be cooked to the same mahogany perfection that we expect from beef. The biggest mistake most people make in cooking mushrooms is not cooking them long enough. The longer they cook, the firmer, denser and meatier they become.

It's simple. Just start by heating a little oil or butter in a skillet and then add the mushrooms in batches. The pan should be hot enough that you can hear them sizzle as they release their juices. Do not throw a whole pound of mushrooms into the skillet and crowd the pan because they will become soggy as they stew together and turn into a rubbery mass. Given more room to sizzle, they will caramelize as their juices evaporate and develop a deep glaze, or fond, that becomes the flavor base.

I prefer to buy mushrooms in bulk, choosing ones that look firm without nicks or that aren't discolored, and then store them in a paper bag in the refrigerator. (If they're packaged, I remove and transfer them to a paper bag.) To prepare mushrooms, just trim the stems with a paring knife and then wipe them with a damp towel or soft brush. If using portobello mushrooms, use a teaspoon to remove the gills. Don't run mushrooms under water — they become soggy, and any excess surface moisture will inhibit the browning.

Cooked mushrooms will keep in a covered container for several days in the refrigerator or may be frozen, ready to add to soups, stews or as the basis for this Mushroom Bourguignon.

Mushroom Bourguignon is a hearty, wintry dish that showcases the different mushrooms available.
Mushroom Bourguignon is a hearty, wintry dish that showcases the different mushrooms available.

Mette Nielsen, Special to the Star Tribune

Mushroom Bourguignon

Serves 4 to 6.

This wintry Bourguignon relies on a quality stock. Use your own homemade or a reliable brand of chicken, beef or mushroom stock. Use a mix of mushrooms for the best flavor: cremini, portobello, shiitake as well as the more unusual varieties — chestnut, lion's mane, oyster and maitake, now available in grocery stores. From Beth Dooley.

• 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

• 1 tbsp. butter, plus more as needed

• 2 lb. mixed mushrooms cut into 1-in. chunks, about 10 c.

• 3 leeks, white and green parts, trimmed and diced

• 3 cloves garlic, smashed

• 1/2 c. red wine

• 1 c. stock (beef, mushroom vegetable or chicken)

• 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce, or more to taste

• 1 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

• Cooked egg noodles, for serving

• Chopped parsley, for garnish


Add the oil and butter to a large Dutch oven or pot and set over medium heat. When hot, sauté the mushrooms in batches until they've released their juices and are very browned on all sides, about 5 minutes, adding more oil and butter as needed. Remove mushrooms from pan and set aside.

Add the leeks and garlic and cook until softened and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the wine and scrape up any of the browned bits sticking to the bottom of the pot and add the stock. Return the cooked mushrooms and their juices to the pot and add the Worcestershire and thyme, reduce the heat, and simmer until the liquid has reduced, about 20 to 25 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Serve over cooked egg noodles and garnish with chopped parsley.

Beth Dooley is the author of "The Perennial Kitchen." Find her at