The Ingredient of The Year: Mushrooms

Chef preparing mushrooms

Mushrooms are truly having a moment and appearing more and more on both meat- and plant-based catering menus. The New York Times named mushrooms the 2022 Ingredient of the Year. Not only are they healthy, but they’re also very flavorful, versatile, readily available, highly sustainable to produce, and good for the planet. At Messina’s Catering & Events, we’ve used plant-based powerlifters in several of our fan favorites like wild mushroom bisque and crabmeat stuffed mushrooms for decades. Still, more than ever, mushrooms are taking center stage as the main course.

Mushrooms are the Rising Star of Plant-Based Proteins

Both restaurants and caterers are swapping vegetables for meats in dishes such as jackfruit tacos and vegan bouillabaisse. The “Blend,” when mushrooms and meat are combined, is also gaining popularity for healthier and more flavorful entrées. It’s a perfect match as mushrooms have inherently meaty qualities and similar umami. Plus, mushrooms are a sustainable way to stretch the protein line item on any catering menu.

Messina's mushroom dish

Mushrooms Offer a World of Flavor

As regional cuisine and the use of traditional ingredients continues to grow in popularity, mushrooms are adding a special touch to authentic dishes, spiced by exotic blends like garam masala and gochujang. Marinating mushrooms in spice blends and sauces can take just about any ethnic dish to the next level.

Mushrooms are the ideal ingredient for healthy Mediterranean cuisine. Because of their subtle flavor profiles, mushrooms are a prized ingredient in many French dishes. They’re the ultimate stir fry add-in in Chinese cuisine and provide the ideal balance in delicately crafted Japanese dishes. Chefs from the U.S., Mexico, Italy, Thailand, and the Middle East have long used mushrooms to boost the flavor of their regional comfort foods.

Mushroom tacos

Mushrooms Check Off all the Health-Conscious Boxes

More and more catering clients are seeking all-natural, organic, GMO-free, and locally sourced foods. They’re willing to pay more for “cleaner” foods and often focus on seasonality and freshness as a key determinant of the catering menus they’ll approve. There is also a growing desire to reduce food waste and offer foods that are higher in nutritional value. Mushrooms provide all of these advantages. Not only are they healthy, but they’re also gluten-free and low in sodium and calories. An 80-gram serving of mushrooms counts as one of your five-a-day veggie or fruit servings and is packed with vitamin B, potassium, selenium, and a soluble fiber called beta-glucan. Beta-glucan is a compound that activates parts of the immune system and can boost a person’s ability to fight infection.

Types of Mushrooms That are Most Commonly Incorporated into Catering Menus

About 90 percent of the mushrooms consumed in the U.S. are white button mushrooms. It’s the workhorse of any catering kitchen and can be eaten raw or cooked and works as well in soups as in salads. Cremini mushrooms (also known as baby Bellas) are young Portobello mushrooms that are firm, darker, and more flavorful than their white button cousins. Portobellos, common in Italian cooking, are dense and rich and make a great meat substitute. In Japanese, shitake means “oak fungus,” which offers a light woodsy flavor and aroma. The dried version of shitakes provides an even more intense flavor. Other mushrooms that are not as widely used but are blossoming in popularity include maitake, oyster, enoki, beech, king trumpet, black trumpet, chanterelles, and morels.

Messina’s Catering & Events Has Many Vegetable-Forward Catering Menu Options

More and more, we recommend customers incorporate some plant-based items into their catering menus. We have many vegetable-forward dishes featuring mushrooms already being offered, and we are always open to new inspiration from our clients. As a third-generation, family-owned, and operated business celebrating six decades, Messina’s Catering & Events stays abreast of this and other trends to offer the most inventive catering menus in New Orleans.