One of my favourite breakfast dishes is sautéed mushrooms. When added as a side to bacon and eggs, butter-soaked mushrooms can impart a sense of luxury (as well as an illusion of health). And while I would love to be one of those people that can afford regular helpings of porcini or saffron milk cap ‘shrooms, my post-student, pre-employment lifestyle means that I’m restricted to the more economical white button or swiss brown varieties. But fear not, one ingredient can change my mushrooms from basic to boss!

Mushroom by name, animal by taste

The allure of eating mushrooms must certainly come from it’s animalian taste. The pungent, meat-like flavour of mushrooms can be attributed to a natural source of MSG – the culinary world’s most notorious ingredient. MSG (or monosodium glutamate for all my chemistry fans) imparts an umami taste to mushrooms and it’s this that is key to maximising the flavour of mushrooms.

Mushrooms are 80-90% water, meaning that the natural flavour compounds of mushrooms are diluted. Therefore, by eliminating most of this water through sauteeing, we can concentrate the amount of MSG (and other flavour compounds), maximising the mushroom punch. But one extra ingredient can give sauteed mushrooms an even greater boost – balsamic vinegar.

Besting with balsamic

Balsamic vinegar has a distinct sourness, which encourages salivation when consumed. But it also has natural sugars and it’s own slight umami taste. Therefore, adding balsamic vinegar complements the natural flavour profile of mushrooms. I should stress that only a small amount of balsamic vinegar is needed to stimulate the flavour of the mushrooms, rather than overcome it.

And there you have it, super simple, but satisfying, sauteed mushrooms. Be sure to add salt to your dish as well and hey, maybe a little butter too. Happy cooking and if you want to share any of your own mushrooms tips, write it in the comments section below!

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