Wild mushrooms are more readily available to home cooks than ever, especially here in Southern California. Not just chanterelle and morel mushrooms, but also maitake (a.k.a. hen of the woods), hedgehog, shimeji, king trumpet and more. They may look funny and have unusual names, but they have WAY more flavor than the ubiquitous white buttons and criminis and are well worth your while to pursue.
Wild mushrooms have unique flavors and distinct textures, but what we really look to them for is umami, that fifth flavor that fills the senses with an earthy meatiness that is the “essence of deliciousness,” as it translates from the Japanese. Almost every culinary verb can be applied to mushrooms, and they are great as a component of a dish or by themselves.
While most wild mushrooms should be cooked before eating, some can be eaten raw and can contribute their depth of flavor and texture even if you’re not cooking them, as with King Trumpet Mushroom Salad With Arugulaand shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, where the peppery, delicate arugula leaves are a backdrop for the firm, meaty, mild-flavored and seemingly giant trumpet mushrooms.