Wild Mushroom Sauté

  • 8 cups assorted wild mushrooms (shiitake, oyster, morels, cremini, chanterelles, portabellos, porcini, or golden trumpets - about 1 1/2 pounds total)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme (1 tablespoon fresh)
  • 1/3 cup dry wine or sherry, marsala, vegetable broth, or tomato juice
  • ground black pepper to taste

As simple and robust as it is, Wild Mushroom Sauté is still a show-off dish. You get wonderfully deep flavor with this hot sauté method, which sears and browns the surfaces quickly. This is one time you shouldn't use a nonstick skillet, because the pan won't get hot enough to do the job.

Choose a variety of mushrooms. Use a big portabello for its meatiness and bulk and then smaller amounts of several different wild mushrooms. Look for fresh-looking mushrooms with firm, dry stems, unblemished caps, and a pleasant, earthy smell.

Trim the mushroom stem ends. Remove and discard shiitake stems because they don't soften when cooked. Leave small shiitake caps whole; cut the larger ones in half. Separate oyster mushrooms and other mushrooms that grow in clumps into smaller bunches. Chop portabellos into 1-inch pieces. Cut other mushrooms lengthwise, in fairly large halves or quarters. Separate teh muchrooms into two groups: the tougher ones, like portabellos, oysters, porcini, and cremini, and the more tender, like shiitake, morels, chanterelles, and golden trumpets. Gently wipe off any grit clinging to the mushrooms with a soft brush or a damp towel without immersing or rinsing them.

If you have a 12-inch skillet, you can cook all of the mushrooms together, pushing the first batch to the sides of the skillet while you sauté the more delicate batch in the middle. If not, use two frying pans and divide the mushrooms and other ingredients between them. Avoid overcrowding; it prevents the mushrooms from searing properly. As a result, they cook too slowly and release too many juices.

Heat the skillet on high heat until just smoking. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the sturdier group of mushrooms. Sauté on high heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Push those mushrooms to the side and add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, the rest of the mushrooms, and the garlic. Lower the heat and sauté, stirring frequently, for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the mushrooms exude some juice and begin to shrink.

Stir in the salt, parsley, and thyme. Return the heat to high and add the wine or other liquid. Scrape the bottom of the pan to stir up any browned mushroom juices and cook until the liquid is nearly evaporated, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and add pepper to taste. Serve hot from the skillet or make ahead and reheat gently to serve.