Weeknight CookingBooksWhat to CookEditors' PicksGenius RecipesVegetarian CookingLong Reads

The Genius Secret Ingredient Your Sautéed Mushrooms Are Missing

188 Save

If you like it, save it!

Save and organize all of the stuff you love in one place.

Got it!

If you like something…

Click the heart, it's called favoriting. Favorite the stuff you like.

Got it!

Every week—often with your help—Food52's Executive Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: Why you should be putting pickle brine in your fancy sautéed mushrooms, and all kinds of other places.

Advertisement



Dill pickle brine's chief function is to preserve cucumbers into infinity. Its reason for being is utility; its food class: byproduct. When it escapes the jar, it's most often served on the side of a cheap shot of whiskey.

So I don't blame you if you tend to eat all the pickles and then throw the juice away—at least, not until right now I didn't.



Maybe nobody told you that tossing pickle brine is just like tipping a perfectly good bottle of vinegar or fish sauce or Worcestershire down the drain. Maybe you never heard that you could cook with brine, not just use it as a bracing, salty slap to chase your sorrows. Or maybe you assumed that brine would always take over, setting its vinegar and salt and spice on top of everything else. You might even have slipped some pickle juice into potato salad or Bloody Marys, where blandness signals a crushing defeat.

But as I learned from Stuart Brioza, chef-owner of State Bird Provisions in San Francisco, brine could be doing so much more. He splashes dill pickle brine into buttery sautéed mushrooms—refined, seasonal, expensive mushrooms. And it makes them even better.



Unless you're approaching the proportions used for pickles (i.e. literally swimming in brine), it's just a contained burst of acid, salt, and mulled seasonings that together work background magic. Used in tablespoons, not pints, it doesn't announce itself, but somehow makes the butter and mushrooms speak louder and more clearly.

Advertisement



"I love pickles. I love mushrooms," Brioza wrote, in explaining how he came up with the idea. "We like to ferment turnips at the restaurant, and it's a great way to use that brine (though dill pickle brine would work just as well)." Imagine what pickle brine could do for your other fine spring vegetable hauls—your ramps, your delicate greens, your radishes.

 

 

As for the mushrooms, they're pretty ethereal all on their own, but they'd sit nicely with steak or roast chicken, or in a bowl of lentils or grains. Or, per Brioza, "One great way to eat them would be as 'bread and butter pickle mushrooms': Serve them warm on crusty buttered bread."

Stuart Brioza's Mushrooms in Pickle-Brine Butter

Adapted slightly from Food & Wine and State Bird Provisions

Serves 6 to 8, but scales down well

1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 medium shallots, thinly sliced (1 1/2 cups)
3 pounds mixed mushrooms, such as cremini, oyster, and stemmed shiitake, thickly sliced or quartered
3/4 cup brine, strained from a jar of dill pickles
Kosher salt
Pepper

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]. Thanks to Associate Editor Ali Slagle for this one!

The Genius Recipes cookbook is finally here—and a New York Times Best Seller! The book is a mix of greatest hits from the column and unpublished new favorites—all told, over 100 recipes that will change the way you think about cooking. It's on shelves now, or you can order your copy here.

Photos by Mark Weinberg


Tags: mushrooms, stuart brioza, state bird provisions, pickle brine, genius, everyday cooking, secret ingredients, special diets, vegetarian, picklebacks