On Your Table: Capping National Mushroom Month with a flourish

Longhorn Steakhouse celebrates local mushrooms

By Cathy Branciaroli, Food Correspondent, The Times


Longhorn Steakhouse’s Chef’s Showcase dish, Harvest Mushroom Filet, features local mushrooms from Basciani Foods.

September is National Mushroom Month, and with Kennett Square’s Mushroom Festival behind us, the celebration of mushrooms continues at Longhorn Steakhouse.  The chain of casual dining restaurants began offering a special fall dish featuring local fungi September first.

Their Chef’s Showcase dish, Harvest Mushroom Filet ,topped with crimini, oyster and shitake mushrooms, is being offered for a limited time only.  Greg Shepard, manager of the Longhorn in Exton, PA, told me that the dish was developed by Longhorn’s corporate chef after experimenting with all types of mushrooms. The steak is paired with complementary side dishes including leek and potato gratin, and topped with a red wine reduction.  It is delicious – I can testify.

The entire Longhorn chain of 460-plus restaurants will be featuring this dish for 90 days, Also on the menu are grilled button mushroom caps stuffed with white and yellow cheddar cheese, herbs and roasted parmesan cheese crumbs and mushroom bisque made with chanterelle mushrooms and a dash of truffle oil. All the mushrooms come from Basciani Foods, headquartered in Avondale, PA.  Greg told me that Longhorn is committed to supporting local businesses and that the restaurant in Exton is a test store for the chain where new dishes are tried out for customer feedback.

When I visited the Basciani mushroom farm in Avondale, head grower Richard Basciani showed me how the family-fun business is taking advantage of the latest technologies in their growing barns scattered around the Avondale area.  “We pasteurize, or cure, the compost used to grow the mushrooms indoors now,” he said, “and we use oxygenated water in their cultivation.  Everything is done in sanitary conditions.”  The Basciani family has been operating a mushroom business since 1915 when the current generation’s grandfather came to the area from a small village along the Adriatic Coast in the Abruzzo region of Italy.

Richard debunked several myths about cooking with mushrooms.  “These TV people tell you that you need to rub the skins with a paper towel, but that isn’t necessary,” he said.  “They are watered every day with drinking quality water, so just run a little water over them and you are ready to go.  Use the stems, not just the caps.  The stems are 100% mushroom and shouldn’t go to waste.  People don’t know that mushrooms are the only source of vitamin D in the produce aisle”.  His tip for the world’s best hamburgers was to add 30% finely chopped mushrooms to the ground meat mixture.  “It makes the hamburger moister than with ground meat alone,” he told me.

So in tribute to local mushrooms, here is a little tutorial on popular varieties.


Crimini, shitake and oyster mushrooms from Basciani Foods are the stars in Longhorn Steakhouse’s Chef’s Showcase dish.

Button Mushrooms, the most popular type, can range in size from small (usually used for marinating) to large (used mostly for stuffing). They can be used raw for salads and vegetable trays. They can be marinated, stuffed or sautéed.

Crimini, a brown variety considered an Italian type, have a much more intense and ‘earthy’ flavor compared to the white variety. Their texture is firmer and they offer a deeper mushroom flavor.

Portabella actually are an overgrown Crimini.   Because of the longer growing cycle, and their  characteristic opened cap, this mushroom has an exquisite meaty flavor and texture. Try cooking them whole on the grill or baked as a substitute for meat in a burger.

Shiitake are known by a number of other common names, such as the Oak, Chinese or Black Forest mushroom. Originating from Japan, shiitake have a characteristic umbrella shaped cap, with an open veil and tan gills. Shiitake are best cooked, with a firm texture and wonderful aroma when used in any dish. Stems are very tough and should be removed.

Oyster Mushrooms vary by species and can range in size from 1 to 3 inches. Their mild delicate flavor is most suited to cooking with chicken, veal, pork and seafood. Also try adding to soups and sauces.

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