The versatility and depth of complexity that mushrooms add to most any dish goes far beyond what any word can describe. For those that love mushrooms, they know the hearty character and Earthy flavor is a complementary enhancement to vast amount of ingredients, making them easily incorporated into almost anything. The multitude of different varieties, mixed with the many textures and colors are just a few of the reasons why chef’s like Tom Colicchio call the mushroom their favorite ingredient to use. And let’s face it, Pennsylvania offers no shortage of mushrooms, no matter what the season. Mushrooms are best stored in a paper bag, unsealed. They can also be laid out on to a cookie sheet with a dry towel over them, allowing the air to get to them. It is not a good idea to store mushrooms in a plastic bag, or sealed; this will cause spoilage at a much faster rate. Now the subject of how to clean mushrooms is somewhat of a controversial topic. It is best to use a brush to clean off the mushrooms, whenever this is possible. Mushrooms absorb water very quickly and hold it, causing the flavors of the mushroom to be diluted. This is why you should only wash the mushrooms whenever brushing them will not work adequately. When you do need to wash them, always run them under a cold faucet instead of soaking them in water. After you are done rinsing them, place them on a cookie tray that has been lined with a clean, dry dish towel. The somewhat intense flavor that mushrooms bring to the party is why they lend themselves well to most any flavor profile. One of the best ways to prepare them, most specifically to sauce making, is to sauté them in some butter and oil; allowing the natural juices of the mushroom come out and become caramelized. A common mistake that people make is to want to sauté too many mushrooms at one time. This will cause the pan to cool off and not be able to regain the heat fast enough to actually sauté. Instead, too much of their liquid is drawn out at one time, causing the mushrooms to boil in their own juice, which change the overall texture and flavor. The time of year will determine wild mushrooms will be available. As it is currently winter, my mind goes straight towards truffles. The downside with cooking with truffles is the cost associated with them. Here is a brief description of some of the more popular varieties; Chanterelles: Season: spring through fall Techniques: bake or sauté Flavor: quiet to moderate Matsutake: Season: autumn Techniques: braise, fry, grill, sauté Flavor: loud Morals: Season: spring Techniques: boil or stew Flavor: quiet-moderate Porcini: Season: late spring to early autumn Techniques: grill, boil, roast or stew Flavor: quiet-moderate Next time you are at the store, and are feeling a bit creative, then pick up some wild mushrooms. You will not be disappointed with the boast of flavor that will be added to whatever dish you are making that night.