Cooks who are comfortable with button mushrooms, meaty portobello mushrooms, and earthy shitakes might feel unsure about how to handle enoki mushrooms. Their unique, thread-thin appearance can make even seasoned cooks nervous about what to do with them, but in fact, there are a number of ways they can be used to enhance salads, soups, and main dishes. Enoki mushrooms can transform a dish as long as cooks respect their delicate natures so that they aren’t overcooked and they are combined with other foods that won’t overwhelm them. Cooks should seek out only the freshest mushrooms and avoid those shelved in cans or jars as well as those in the produce department that have brown slime on the stems.
One of the easiest ways to use enoki mushrooms is in salads. While they can join lettuce, cucumber, tomato and a host of other garden vegetables in the salad bowl, their presence won’t cause much of a stir as they’ll be overshadowed by the cacophony of colors, textures, and tastes that compose the traditional American salad. A better choice of bowl mate is one simple ingredient—peppery arugula. An oil and vinegar dressing that includes garlic is really all that’s needed to create an elegant, delicious, and healthy salad.
Many of the recipes that utilize enoki mushrooms are derived from Japanese cooking because that is where these elegant, long-necked beauties are from. Cooks can prepare miso soup with enokis in addition to miso paste and kombu, a type of seaweed. This soup is terrifically nutritious and mellow in taste. In Japan, it is common to serve it several times a week, if not daily, before the meal.
Even when these mushrooms are included in a cooked main dish, they most often join the cooking pot at the last minute or are even added as a garnish after the food has been plated. Red meat, pork, wild game, and other deeply flavored meats are generally too strong for enoki mushrooms to shine. They are most common in dishes that are meatless or those that include meat substitutes, such as tofu or tempeh.
Cooks who’d like to combine enokis with meat generally keep their choices to chicken, veal, or fish. For example, when a home cook prepares veal scaloppine, breading and sautéing the veal is the first step. Afterward, a little lime juice and white wine added to the skillet along with flour cooks down into a glaze. The enoki mushrooms are only added in the final step, when they, as well as the veal, join the glaze for a gentle warming.
Many pasta dishes can showcase enokis. Penne or another short pasta made with artichoke hearts, tomatoes, and some excellent virgin olive oil make a delicious meal. The mushrooms in this dish needn’t be cooked at all but can be served atop the pasta along with a sprinkling of Romano cheese. The adventurous cook might add some orange zest or a few drops of hazelnut oil as well.