CHICAGO — John Sartain, culinary technician at Tate & Lyle, Hoffman Estates, Ill., and Anne Druschitz, corporate research chef at Edlong, Elk Grove Village, Ill., prepared a diverse menu of mushroom-centric fare for the April 10 meeting of the Chicago division of the Institute of Food Technologists. Held at Kendall College, Chicago, the chefs showed attendees not only how mushrooms may be the star in such appetizers as stuffed mushrooms and arancini, but also how mushrooms may be non-characterizing components of burgers, tacos and meatballs.
“Blendability” describes the ability to blend ground meat with mushrooms to create a meat dish that is perceived as healthier, and has more flavor than full meat alone, said Chef Bill Briwa from the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, N.Y. The result is meat products with improved nutrition through the reduction of saturated fat and calories along with the introduction of vegetable. There is no sacrifice on taste because of mushroom’s umami taste and the symbiotic relationship between mushrooms and meat.
Culinary professionals are exploring the inclusion of finely diced or chopped mushrooms into ground meat matrices to make lower-fat, flavorful burgers and meatballs for the food service sector, namely high schools, colleges and health institutions, explained Steve Solomon, menu strategist for The Mushroom Council, Red Shores, Calif. He is responsible for developing what is known as “The Blend.”
“The Blend is a way to create better burgers and other ground meat menu items,” he said.
In some instances a 50-50 blend of ground meat and mushrooms is possible.
For the meeting, Mr. Sartain prepared a beef mushroom burger featuring 30% shiitake mushrooms. Ms. Druschitz recreated a cremini lamb burger developed by chef, restauranteur and author Hugh Acheson. The burger combines 25% cremini mushrooms with ground lamb and Boursin cheese.
The event’s menu also included mushroom and chicken tacos, where the mushrooms were sliced and sautéed to resemble the shredded chicken in the blend. There were also spicy Moroccan mushroom meatballs with harissa aioli.
Big Fork Brands, a Chicago-based company specializing in artisanal sausages donated its newest sausage variety, the Big Fork Portabella Bacon Sausage, to the event. The sausage contains about 15% roasted portabella mushrooms.
Mr. Solomon explained how chopped umami-rich mushrooms combine with ground meat to give some foods a healthier positioning in the market. Offering such nutrients as vitamin D, selenium and B vitamins, mushrooms are a nutrient powerhouse with each mushroom type providing its own health benefits.
Looking for a low-calorie ingredient? Opt for white buttons, which boast just 18.5 calories per serving, the lowest calories of all mushroom varieties. Additionally, white buttons provide 15% of the daily recommended intake of niacin.
Shiitakes are an excellent source of copper, offering 40% of the recommended daily intake. One serving of cremini mushrooms is an excellent source of selenium, containing 31% of the recommended daily intake, while a serving of maitake mushrooms contains a whopping 236% of the daily recommended intake of vitamin D.
“Simply chop mushrooms to match the texture of ground meat — beef, pork, chicken, turkey — and use in place of some of the meat in recipes such as burgers, tacos, meatloaf, lasagna, pasta sauce or meatballs to make every day dishes more healthful and delicious,” Mr. Solomon said. “The simple blending strategy plays on mushrooms’ compatibility with meat in terms of taste and texture.”
For extra savory flavor, prior to chopping, roast mushrooms for 10 to 15 minutes to enhance flavor. Cool, then chop and blend.
A sensory study conducted by The Culinary Institute of America and the University of California, Davis, and published in September 2014 in the Journal of Food Science showed that most consumers prefer the flavor, texture, spice level and salt level of the blend over 100% beef.
The study, “Flavor-enhancing properties of mushrooms in meat-based dishes in which sodium has been reduced and meat has been partially substituted with mushrooms,” included eight chef-developed recipes. Researchers investigated the effects of beef substitution with crimini or white mushrooms on the flavor profiles of carne asada and beef taco blends. The prototypes were evaluated with a descriptive analysis panel. Sensory mitigation of sodium reduction through the incorporation of mushrooms was also investigated in the taco blends.
The results showed that substitution of beef with mushrooms in the carne asada did not alter the overall flavor strength of the dish, but the incorporation of 50% or 80% ground mushroom in the beef taco blend did enhance its overall flavor as well as mushroom, vegetable, onion, garlic and earthy flavors, and umami and sweet notes. Overall flavor intensity of the 25% reduced-salt version of the 80% mushroom taco blend matched that of the full-salt versions of the 50% and 100% beef formulations, thus indicating that the substitution of 80% of the meat with mushrooms did mitigate the 25% sodium reduction in terms of the overall flavor impact of the dish, even if it did not quite compensate for the reduction in salty taste.The sensory study showed that in some meat-based dishes, meat may be substituted with mushrooms without compromising the flavor of the dishes while also improving the nutritional quality by reducing the amount of sodium, calories, saturated fat and cholesterol. Such products appeal to meat-eating consumers who want to reduce their meat intake but not completely give it up.