Mushroom

The Genius Secret Ingredient Your Sautéed Mushrooms Are Missing

April 19, 2018

We're bringing back this hit recipe from spring 2015, while Genius sleuth Kristen is on vacation after wrapping up the Genius Desserts cookbook. (It's not a dessert, but feel free to eat it like candy.)



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.

Shop the Story



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.



"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

Order Now

The Genius Desserts cookbook is here! With more than 100 of the most beloved and talked-about desserts of our time (and the hidden gems soon to join their ranks) this book will make you a local legend, and a smarter baker to boot.

Order Now

65 Comments

Mari O. April 22, 2018
As a single, I have lect-over used half onions that go in the dill pickle brine even if there's still a few pickles there. Great minced finely in homemade tartar sauce for fish, also for potato salad, tuna salad, egg salad.
 
Patricia April 16, 2017
Hard boiled eggs peeled and put in leftover dill pickle brine makes great pickled eggs. Put in cooler or refrigerator for 2 weeks or more for maximum flavor. The eggs will have a greenish tint on the outside. Taverns in rural Wisconsin always had them in the coolers and on the backbars in the good old days. Taste great with a cold glass of beer.
 
Bob H. March 31, 2017
I had not EVER thought of using pickle brine. This interesting because I am making a mushroom soup tomorrow evening and what a perfect time to add a bit of new flavor
 
Bob H. March 31, 2017
I had not EVER thought of using pickle brine. This interesting because I am making a mushroom soup tomorrow evening and what a perfect time to add a bit of new flavor
 
Judith March 31, 2017
Rhonda, I'll let you know if/when I try it using B&B pickles. (People usually raise eyebrows around doing anything with B&B pickles, tho I don't know why! I first realized I was odd when, as a child, I discovered crunchy peanut butter with B&B pickles. Love that combo to this day!)
 
Judith March 31, 2017
Marilyn, I should have said SOUR, not Bitter! Clearly I'm not a pickle aficionado (unless we're discussing sweet pickles!)
 
Julie F. March 31, 2017
Any ideas about how to do this dairy-free? Butter substitute?
 
Rhonda35 March 31, 2017
It will be just as tasty using olive oil. :-)
 
Mari O. April 22, 2018
Virgin coconut oil is good for frying/sauteeing.
 
Edward March 31, 2017
Peter Pherson, are you here to criticize grammar or to learn something new about the preparation of mushrooms? Get a life dude! Move on!
 
elizabeth L. March 31, 2017
I've been using leftover pickle juice/ brine t h at I get from my sister & my l homemade too, and olive brine for a long time. I make all sorts of great soups. One that pairs well is any pickles chopped up or even cucumbers, browned hot and sweet ground pork sausage meat or chicken or real ukrainian kobasa or even ham, onions, lentils, cabbage, celery, any greens like collard or kale, barley, herbs & seasoning chicken or vegetable broth and you got a great soup. You can add plain Greek yogurt or sour cream or buttermilk to mellow it out. You can also use pickled brine and saurkraut juice for a pork or smoked ham and saurkraut, cabbage soup mixed with chopped tomatoes, onions, celery, caraway seed, dill, parsley. Possibilities are endless.
 
shirley K. March 30, 2017
Do not know why posted so many times
 
shirley K. March 30, 2017
Drinking pickle juice is great if suffering from leg cramps......try it.<br />
 
shirley K. March 30, 2017
Drinking pickle juice is great if suffering from leg cramps......try it.<br />
 
shirley K. March 30, 2017
Drinking pickle juice is great if suffering from leg cramps......try it.<br />
 
shirley K. March 30, 2017
Drinking pickle juice is great if suffering from leg cramps......try it.<br />
 
Rhonda35 March 30, 2017
I made these delicious mushrooms tonight - and then stirred them into cheese sauce and poured it over pasta. Not too shabby! I always have a jar of pickle juice going in my fridge - I use it to brine poultry, but now have a new use.
 
Mike March 30, 2017
Pints of pickle juice do have at least one use: I add at least that amount to the water I cook the pasta in when making a pasta salad, and then splash another TBS or 2 on the pasta while it still warm after it's been drained. Adds LOTS of flavor, and especially good when the veggies added to the salad are themselves all pickled, like onions, capers, olives, tomatoes, peppers, and about anything else that trips out on acid.
 
Judith March 30, 2017
I'm partial to Bread and Butter Pickles (e.g. Bubbies!). Would you use that? Is it about the bitterness of dill pickles or just about the vinegar and spices?
 
Marilyn March 30, 2017
Absolutely not the same thing. Would not work with sweet pickles. <br /><br />I have not had any bitter dill pickles? The pickle juice in this recipe would be all about adding the vinegar (acid) to the rich/fatty mushroom saute.<br />
 
Rhonda35 March 30, 2017
I'm not sure I agree with Marilyn, Judith; well, sure it won't be the "same" as using the brine from a more sour pickle, but it will probably be tasty. I would give it a try! I often use a splash of sweet wine to deglaze sautéed mushrooms and I would think the sweet and sour of Bread and Butter Pickles would be similar to that. If you try it, report back! :-)
 
Arlene March 30, 2017
I never throw my pickle juice away. I brine my chicken in it along with buttermilk and hot sauce....tastes just like Chick Fil A.
 
Marian March 30, 2017
You have to check our Ruth's Brisket on Food52. Pickle juice is the secret ingredient!
 
Penny H. March 30, 2017
Pickle brine works great as a de-glazer for almost any pan-fried meat. I can't afford steak anymore but have used it on chicken and pork.