Mushrooms make a terrific stand-in for many dishes featuring beef. When sautéed in a little butter or oil for a long time, they become firmer, denser and meatier-tasting. When properly cooked, mushrooms enrich soups, stews and sauces and are terrific in such classics as Beef Bourguignon.

The best way to cook mushrooms is in a skillet in small batches, giving them enough space. This way, they release their juices and their flavors condense. 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 in the skillet, they will caramelize and develop a deep, nutty taste. It takes patience and time. Mushrooms crowded in the pan and undercooked, I think, is the real reason some people say they don't like them.

Our co-ops and grocers offer plenty of good cultivated varieties of mushrooms — portobello, cremini (baby portobellos) and shiitake.

It's best to buy mushrooms whole, not sliced or cut and packaged; they should feel moist and heavy for their size. Place the mushrooms in a paper bag in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Clean mushrooms before cooking them. It's best not to run them under the tap because they absorb too much water. Instead, trim the stems with a paring knife and then wipe the stem and mushroom cap with a damp towel or soft brush. Alternately, you can rinse mushrooms, by dropping them into a bowl of water, lift them out and blot dry on a clean dishcloth or paper towel.

Once the mushrooms are cooked, they will keep in a covered container for several days in the refrigerator or may be frozen and ready to add to soups or stews.

Toss sautéed mushrooms with pasta or stir into rice with chopped parsley and a little cheese. Sautéed mushrooms are also delicious served on bruschetta and pizza.

Vegetarians and their friends will love this meatless bourguignon and other such mushroom creations. These dishes are lighter than the originals and just as satisfying. No one will ask, "Where's the beef?"


Serves 4.

Note: This hearty wintry dish comes together quickly for a weekday supper but is elegant enough for a weekend dinner party. It doubles easily and may be made ahead of time, then assembled right before serving. From Beth Dooley.

• 1 tbsp. vegetable oil

• 1 tbsp. unsalted butter

• 2 lb. cremini mushrooms, sliced

• 2 garlic cloves, minced

• 2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

• Generous pinch red pepper flakes

• 1/4 c. white wine

• 1/4 c. mushroom, chicken or vegetable stock

• Cooked egg noodles for serving

• 1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley for garnish


In a large skillet over medium heat, whisk together the oil and butter until hot and bubbly. Working in batches, sauté the mushrooms until browned on all sides, about 5 to 8 minutes, removing each batch to a plate until they're all cooked.

Whisk in the garlic, thyme and a sprinkle of salt, pepper and the red pepper flakes. Cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the wine and stock, scraping up any browned bits that stick to the bottom of the pan.

Return the mushrooms to the pan, reduce heat and simmer until the liquid has thickened, about 5 to 8 minutes. Serve over cooked egg noodles and serve garnished with parsley.

Nutrition information per serving (calculated without pasta):

Calories114Fat7 gSodium24 mg

Carbohydrates9 gSaturated fat2 gCalcium19 mg

Protein7 gCholesterol8 mgDietary fiber2 g

Diabetic exchanges per serving: 2 vegetable, ½ lean meat, 1 fat.

Beth Dooley is the author of "In Winter's Kitchen." Find her at