Caramelized Mushroom Stock
With its intense mushroom taste, Caramelized Mushroom stock is a great oil-free vegan option for Fall & Winter dishes and Asian style noodle dishes like Pho.
Caramelized mushroom stock has a rich, full-flavored mushroom taste. Caramelizing the mushrooms brings out the natural sugars deepening the inherent earthy flavor with a slight sweetness and nuttiness that you can’t get with just simmering the mushrooms in water.
Both the basic white mushroom or crimini can be used for this stock. The crimini will give a somewhat deeper flavor. But it is more important to select the freshest mushrooms as opposed to the specific type. Using just the ubiquitous white mushroom, and the aromatic onion and garlic will extract a deep flavor from caramelizing (aka browning) the mushrooms before adding water to simmer.
Both the basic white mushrooms and the darker crimini mushrooms can be found in any grocery store. Costco also carries organic white and crimini in 1 1/2 lb containers and are almost always very fresh.
How to Identify Fresh White and Crimini Mushrooms
Fresh mushrooms will appear very smooth on the outside, and have very little color variation like darker spots. The white mushroom will be fairly white throughout and the crimini mushroom will be a medium brown throughout. There are often some darker areas on the caps, but excessive dark spots indicate the mushroom is starting to spoil. The stem and cap should be close together, not separated such that you can see the brown spores under the cap.
The touch of a fresh mushroom will feel slightly damp like a really well rung out piece of cloth. The mushrooms should not feel wet or slimy.
A light earthy smell when you are close up is a good sign of a fresh mushroom. If the mushrooms have a fishy, moldy, ammonia or just a really off odor they are no longer fresh and you should wait until your grocer gets in a new batch. Mushrooms with a really off odor should be discarded or put in the compost bin, but definitely not consumed.
Preparing the Mushrooms
Cleaning the Mushrooms
There are two cleaning methods, use whichever suits you. Method 1: dampen a lint-free towel or paper towel and wipe them off. Method 2: Place the mushrooms in a bowl or salad spinner filled with water, swish them around,then lift out,lay them out on a dry towel and pat them dry.
I have found that mushrooms caramelize equally well using either method of cleaning. My preference is the water bowl method as I find the mushrooms come much cleaner.
Cutting the Mushrooms for Optimum Caramelization
To get the most out of the caramelization, its best to have as many flat sides of the mushrooms as possible for better contact with the pan. After cleaning, pop the stems out, cut them lengthwise so there is a flat side to brown on the stems. Then cut the underside of the mushroom caps. I do it this way so that I can reserve some of the mushroom caps for the final dish I making that night. If you don’t need the caps for another dish, continue to slice the caps into 1/2 slices for the stock. Cook any reserved caps within the day. Once mushrooms are washed they will not store well in the refrigerator and deteriorate quickly.
Typically what I do when I know I’m going to make mushroom stock is buy about 1 pound and a half total so that I can use the stems and undersides of the caps for the stock which turns out to be around 3/4 of a pound to a pound and reserve the remaining caps for the final dish I’m preparing on the same night.
Preparing the Onion and Garlic
The onion just needs to be cut into 1/4in slices. The garlic cloves just need a little bashing with the back of a knife or a pounder to release the oils and enable the cloves to get golden. Like with the mushrooms, we want to caramelize the onions and get the garlic golden to bring out the sweet and nutty flavors for a deep, rich stock. The natural sweetness of caramelized onions and the savory nuttiness of caramelized garlic really rounds out the over flavor of the stock.
Because we are going to caramelize the vegetables for the stock, I recommend a Dutch oven over the typical stock pot. Typical stock pots don’t have a good pan surface for optimum browning. They are either too thin or have the glued on bottom which isn’t great for browning the vegetables tend to stick and burn quicker than with a tri-clad or enameled cast iron Dutch oven.
Storing the Caramelized Mushroom Stock
Once the stock is made, you can use right away in the dish you are making or store it for later use. To store in the refrigerator or freezer, allow the mushroom stock to cool to near room temperature, about 1 hour after the heat has been turned off. Then strain into a large bowl leaving the vegetables and sediment behind in the strainer. You may need to do this step twice or use a fine sieve (strainer) as the dark brown gills tend to leave a lot of sediment. The caramelized mushroom stock will be good for up to 5 days in the refrigerator stored in glass or ceramic container and 3–6 months in the freezer using a freezer-safe container. Be sure to write the date on the container so there is no question when it was made.
Tools Used in this Recipe
- large cutting board
- chef or Santoku knife
- Dutch oven and lid
- colander or strainer
- storing containers