A guide to French mushrooms in France, what goes with them and healthy mushroom recipes. Even includes a popular French saying to step on one.
Common button mushrooms are available on sale all year round. However, the other wild edible varieties are in peak season in Autumn.
So it's typically French to add them to all sorts of Autumn/fall dishes as a side with fresh herbs (e.g. parsley and chervil). Add these freshly chopped at the end of cooking in classic stews (see recipes below).
Common French Mushroom Types
France is the 3rd biggest producer of mushrooms in Europe, behind Poland and Holland. The major type you're most likely to see is the common button mushroom.
Common Parisian mushrooms ('Champignons de Paris' in French) are most popular in France and one of the most consumed mushrooms in the world (Agaricus bisporus).
Champignons de Paris (pronounced 'shom-peey-nong de Paree') are available either white or chestnut brown (referred to as 'rose' - pink in French), they're also known as button or cremini mushrooms.
What are the Wild Mushrooms in France?
For all the wild types of mushrooms found in France, see this guide to identify different mushrooms if you like to forage. Although, please don't just follow online applications to forage - it's far too risky! So, if you're not sure of the poisonous ones, French pharmacists can check them for you.
Major types in France: Shiitake (meaning chestnut mushroom in Japanese); Cepes/Porcini, Girolle, Morel, Chanterelle, Trompette des Maures, Pleurottes (oyster), Pieds de Mouton (Lobster) and truffle (truffe).
French Cèpe Mushrooms
French cepes are also known as bolets (bolete in English) which have their distinctive cap. Instead of the usual gills underneath like other mushrooms, have a spongy surface with pores.
Although expensive, it's easy to find dried mushrooms in French supermarkets: particularly cèpes and morels. Soak them in water for 30 minutes and add them to pasta sauces for a real depth of flavour.
What are Duxelles?
Duxelles are not a type of mushroom. Instead, Duxelles is a French cooking term which refers to finely chopped mushrooms, onions/shallots and fresh herbs slowly sautéed in butter and reduced to a paste.
History of French Mushrooms
Louis XIV's botanist, La Quintinye cultivated mushrooms at the Potager du Roi in Versailles but it wasn't until the 19th Century that the Champignons de Paris were born.
As of 1810, they were cultivated in abandoned quarries or caves around Paris and in the Loire Valley due to their constant temperatures and ideal mushroom growing environment.
"Wash and dry them, slice them then coat with salt and pepper and fry them in butter in a frying pan over a fierce fire. Sprinkle them with chopped parsley at the last moment."Chef Auguste Escoffier on the most popular way to prepare mushrooms: Champignons Sautés (Entry 2073 in his Guide to Modern Cookery)
Do I need to Wash Mushrooms?
Avoid eating raw mushrooms as they contain bacteria.
So, always before cooking them, wash them carefully under water and remove any traces of dirt. Do this as close as possible before eating, as they spoil quickly.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, mushrooms are rich in B vitamins (B2, B3, folate, B5), Phosphorus, vitamin D, selenium and potassium.
How Best to Prepare
So, to enjoy mushrooms at their best and extract the most flavour, first sauté them chopped in a hot non-stick pan without any oil or butter.
Dry fry them just until some of their natural liquid is released to concentrate their flavour then add a little butter and olive oil to finish off the process.
How Long do Mushrooms Keep?
Fresh mushrooms are best eaten as soon as possible. They can keep up to 4-5 days in the fridge, only if stored well and absolutely fresh when purchased (i.e. not slimy in any way). Avoid storing them closed in plastic. Keep them open to the air on a fridge shelf rather than in the vegetable drawer and away from strong smelling foods, as they absorb odours quickly.
Popular French Saying with Mushrooms
"Appuyer sur le champignon" (pronounced: apwee-aye soor le chompeeng-nong)
Colloquial French expression (literally translated as 'to press on the mushroom') which means to accelerate a vehicule, to go faster, as a champignon is often referred to as the accelerator.
What Goes with Mushrooms?
According to both Niki Segnit's 'The Flavour Thesaurus' (2010) and Raphaël Haumont in 'Les Papilles du Chimiste' (2017), all mushrooms have their own particular earthy flavour. However, each contain a flavour-identifying compound called I-octen-3-one.
As a result, other foods with similar compounds go very well with mushrooms: almonds, apricot, bacon, chestnut, garlic, onion, asparagus, pumpkins, aromatic herbs (parsley, tarragon, mint, rosemary, thyme), truffle, plus another ingredient you have to discover in this creamy mushroom soup!
According to the Harvard Nutrition Source, mushrooms create savoury rich flavours called umami (contains glutamate). So, the good news is, when added to dishes (stews, pasta or rice dishes and soups), there's no need for too much salt.
Matching with French wine: traditionally in France, mushroom dishes (in particular morels) are often served with a chilled white from the Jura. For special occasions, enjoy particularly with a vin jaune.
French Mushroom Starters or Appetizers
Known as l'entrée in France, the French appetizer (UK starter) features all kinds of mushrooms in season around Autumn.
Perhaps the most popular is simply a plate of mixed wild mushrooms, sautéed in butter, shallot and chopped fresh herbs. Otherwise try these fun appetizers to open the appetite.
The ultimate flavours to start off a French menu is this fun creamy mushroom soup in the style of a cappuccino.
Try this soup with some coffee in it and it's guaranteed a hit. Perfectly dosed, the coffee brings out the mushrooms without overpowering. Serve in coffee cups and dust with unsweetened coffee powder for best effect.
Even more fun, serve the mushroom cappuccinos with a savoury mushroom macaron with a hint of truffle.
French Mushroom Recipes - Mains
Button mushrooms are one of the main ingredients in the classic French Blanquette de Veau. To appreciate the best flavours in this veal stew, sauté the mushrooms separately with pearl onions and add towards the end of cooking and add the famous white sauce.
Sauté mushrooms and add them to these stuffed mini pumpkins, known as Jack-be-Little in France. Either vegetarian topped with cheese or with added bacon.
Cook mushrooms separately with bacon and add towards the end of cooking to the classic French Coq au Vin casserole dish.
These days we don't cook with rooster (le coq) but rather with chicken. However, even if it looks longer to marinade in the wine overnight (authentic with red wine), it's worth it! The flavours are beautifully intense and the meat incredibly tender.
Add sautéd mushrooms (cooked separately) to this butternut and walnut gratin.
Mushrooms are a highlight in this Autumnal chestnut flour tart. It's so worth making the homemade pastry and enjoy all the flavours of fall.