Mixing with meat adds healthfulness to menu

01/14/2014 04:08:00 PM
Cynthia David

The goal of the mushroom industry’s blendability concept is to take the food world by storm.

“It’s so hot and on trend because consumers across the board are looking to eat healthier and shifting away from meat as the center of plate,” said Kathleen Preis, marketing coordinator at the San Jose, Calif.-based Mushroom Council.

By substituting ground mushrooms for up to half the ground meat in burgers, tacos, meatballs and meatloaf, cooks working under strict nutrition guidelines can easily cut the fat and sodium in popular items while adding moisture and flavor.

“The mushrooms’ meaty texture blends seamlessly with the ground meat so you’re not sacrificing taste and you’re getting all the great nutrients from mushrooms,” Preis said.

“As the concept hits its stride, more and more people are hearing about it and want to work with us so it’s very exciting,” she said.

The council is now promoting the concept, which began with a Culinary Institute of America partnership, to retail, foodservice and institutions.

Preis said mushroom-blended turkey and chicken burgers have appeared on more restaurant menus since The Cheesecake Factory introduced its blended turkey burger two years ago.

Avondale, Pa.-based To-Jo Mushrooms is working with chefs to develop fresh and frozen items, some using turkey as breakfast items, which may launch this year, said marketing director Peter Wilder.

“Turkey is already healthy,  but it tends to be dry,” Wilder said, “so blending in mushrooms adds flavor, moisture and a savory component.”

The concept of blending a fruit or vegetable with meat isn’t new, but mushrooms absorb and enhances the flavor of the meat, making it the most successful duo yet, said Joe Caldwell, vice president Watsonville, Calif.–based Monterey Mushrooms.

Several Mexican restaurants are considering mushrooms for their taco meat mix, Caldwell said.

Media also have taken note, Preis said, with blendability stories appearing in The New York Times, Nantional Public Radio and The Wall Street Journal.

Access Hollywood recently featured chef Richard Blais introducing a mushroom blended burger at his Flip Burger Boutique in Atlanta.

The council is working with New York chef Jehangir Mehta as a chef ambassador, and Preis is planning more how-to videos on blendability for its YouTube channel and more recipes for its mushroominfo.com website.

Gary Schroeder, president of Oakshire Mushroom Farm Inc. in Kennett Square, Pa., sees the blendability trend moving from institutions to restaurants and eventually filtering down to home cooks.

“Over time, when people learn that half the meat in that really good lasagna was replaced with mushrooms, they’re going to want that recipe,” Shroeder said.



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