Kristen Kish's Method For The Absolute Best Sauteed Mushrooms

Kristen Kish smiling at event
Kristen Kish smiling at event - Arturo Holmes/Getty Images

Fans of Bravo's "Top Chef" might remember when Season 10 winner Kristen Kish — who has since replaced Padma Lakshmi as the show's host — memorably won an elimination challenge with a simple French mushroom side dish, beating out a loaded Idaho baked potato and a strip steak, among other sumptuous 1950s-inspired dishes. So how did white button mushrooms, the most unassuming member of the fungus family, wow the judges? It might have had something to do with Kish's simple but brilliant method of cooking them.

To get the most flavor out of any mushroom variety — and as Kish later outlined in her 2017 cookbook "Kristen Kish Cooking: Recipes and Techniques" — she sautes them twice. The first round is to help them release their moisture, while the second round encourages browning and caramelization, which is the key to that meaty, umami flavor. She drains them between rounds, ensuring they are as moisture-free as possible for that final sear.

While some say not overcrowding your pan is the most important tip to follow for perfect sauteed mushrooms, Kish's double saute deserves equal billing.

Read more: 12 Vegetables And Fruits That Used To Look Very Different

Sauteed mushrooms in cast iron pan
Sauteed mushrooms in cast iron pan - Jatrax/Getty Images

To save stove space on "Top Chef," Kristen Kish traded her double saute method for a slightly more chef-y shortcut with the same result in mind. "Mushrooms can get soggy," she explained mid-episode on the series, as she tossed a pan of clean white buttons into a 450 degrees Fahrenheit oven to dry them out. "When they hit the hot pan and the oil, they can start to caramelize and brown," she said.

Later, in the dining room, judge Tom Colicchio can be heard praising the side dish. "They're definitely one of my favorites," he said, shortly before presenting Kish with winning news. At home, though, Kish cooks her mushrooms in a pan — a decidedly more approachable option for those who don't want to dirty more dishes than necessary.

In her cookbook, she explains that the second saute round allows for more than just browning. It also encourages the other flavors in your pan (shallots, wine, garlic, and the like) to soak into your mushrooms. "Without the first step, mushrooms tend to steam and simmer in unflavored liquid," she added.

Variety of dried mushrooms
Variety of dried mushrooms - Fotografiabasica/Getty Images

Years after her prize-winning mushroom dish made waves on "Top Chef," Kristen Kish is still finding ways to reimagine the white button mushroom, which she billed to Open Table as "the most humble, basic type of mushroom you can find." Indeed, the signature menu item at her Austin-based restaurant, Arlo Grey, is a mafaldine pasta dish with mushroom sauce, pearl onion, and parmesan. Partially inspired by the Hamburger Helper she grew up eating, the dish is proof of the meaty qualities of a well-cooked mushroom, and it's been a mainstay since 2018 for a reason.

The signature dish also backs the efficacy of the chef's double saute method. The creamy sauce calls for dried mushrooms which Kish dehydrates herself rather than sauteeing. In effect, it proves that drawing the moisture out of fungi is the key to a bold taste.

"We're basically taking all that moisture out and condensing the flavor," Kish explained. The results speak for themselves, "If you close your eyes and eat it, I'm not convinced someone would be 100 percent able to tell that it's a white button mushroom."

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