A Holiday Food Your Guests and Your Body Will Thank You For!
There’s a holiday food trend this year that’s not only delicious, but very healthy as well. It’s using mushrooms to enrich a vegetable, beef or chicken stock base.
Let’s start with the health aspect. First of all, mushrooms are the only fruit or vegetable source of Vitamin D—a critical vitamin. Like humans, mushrooms produce vitamin D when in sunlight. Exposing them to high levels of ultraviolet B just before going to market converts more of the plant sterol ergosterol into the so-called sunshine vitamin.
In the U.S., Portobellos fortified with vitamin D are already being sold, with a three-ounce serving providing about 400 IU of vitamin D. It’s recommended that adults get 400 to 1,000 IU daily. This is why you often see mushrooms labeled as “High D” or “Sunshine Mushrooms.”
Abundant recent research also shows that mushrooms (especially white button mushrooms) promote immune function by increasing the production of antiviral and other proteins that are released by cells while they are trying to protect and repair the body’s tissues.
These mushrooms also promote the maturation of immune system cells (called dendritic cells) from bone marrow. According to researchers, this enhances the body’s immunity leading to better defense systems against invading microbes.
And then there’s the antioxidant count. University studies are showing that the oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC, which is, a measure of a food’s total antioxidants), of cremini and Portobello mushrooms were about the same as for red peppers.
On top of all this, mushrooms are loaded with B vitamins, which are vital for turning food (carbohydrates) into fuel (glucose), which the body burns to produce energy. B vitamins also help the body metabolize fats and protein. Mushrooms are an especially good source of vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and vitamin B3 (niacin).
To get technical, 3½ ounces of cremini mushrooms have 44 percent of your daily recommended amount of B vitamins. White button mushrooms have 36 percent, and oyster mushrooms have 39 percent of B vitamins. In simple terms, just 1 ½ cups of mushrooms yields almost 100 percent of your daily B vitamins!
And mushrooms even address cancer. They’re packed with selenium. Cancer research shows that the higher the level of selenium in your blood, the lower the risk of bladder cancer. Cremini, shiitake, and white button mushrooms are true selenium heroes.
So with all this said, let’s move to the delicious aspect of mushrooms. They are bursting with umami. Umami (/uˈmɑːmi/), or savory taste, is one of the five basic tastes (together with sweetness, sourness, bitterness, and saltiness). It has been described as brothy or meaty. Sauteed mushrooms add a heartiness and depth of flavor to everything they touch. Professional chefs rely on them to take a ho-hum dish to HOLY COW with very little effort.
The fact that mushrooms make incredible gravy, then, is no surprise. And this is where I’ll conclude—a delicious recipe for mushroom gravy.
This make-ahead gravy (which is vegetarian, by the way) is completely foolproof. First, it doesn’t require turkey pan drippings, so you don’t need to cook your turkey first (brilliant). Second, there’s no tricky roux—just mix in some flour while you’re sautéing your vegetables. Third, it’s as rich and flavorful as real gravy, thanks to umami-packed portobello mushrooms.
For your next holiday meal, plan to serve this health-packed and scrumptious gravy. Your guests and your body will thank you!
MAKE-AHEAD MUSHROOM GRAVY (yield: 8 to 10 servings)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 medium shallots, minced
1 pint baby Portobello mushrooms, finely chopped
½ cup all-purpose flour
4 cups vegetable stock
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
Kosher salt to taste
Black pepper, freshly ground, to taste
1. In a medium pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the olive oil and swirl the pot to combine with the butter.
2. Add the shallots and mushrooms, and sauté until tender and lightly browned, 10 to 12 minutes.
3. Add the flour and stir to evenly coat the vegetables. Gradually pour in the stock, stirring constantly, and continue to heat until the mixture comes to a simmer.
4. Stir in the thyme and season with salt and pepper. Simmer until the mixture is thick, about 5 minutes.
5. Strain the mixture and discard the solids. Serve immediately or refrigerate until needed (reheat over low heat, stirring constantly, before serving).
6. Garnish with more sliced mushrooms, if desired.
DVO Newsletter Contributor since 2006
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