Photog Andrea Gentl grows vocabulary of mushrooms and how to use them

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A cast iron pan or brick may be used to make a steak out of lion’s mane mushrooms. Photo by Andrea Gentl.

Growing up in Western Massachusetts, photographer and cook Andrea Gentl spent her youth looking down instead of up, becoming fascinated with nature and mushrooms in particular. When she moved to New York City, she abandoned her feral childhood and experiences, before being led back to the natural world through her photography assignments. 

Her first cookbook is “Cooking with Mushrooms: A Funghi Lover’s Guide to the World’s Most Versatile, Flavorful, Health-Boosting Ingredients.”

Salt and Pepper Brick Mushrooms 

Serves 4

In this vegetarian riff on the classic brick chicken, mushrooms are simply cooked with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, with capers added for zing. I have used oyster, maitake, and lion’s mane—all are delicious. Each variety has a different moisture content and will release varying amounts of moisture as the mushrooms cook. I don’t keep bricks in my kitchen, but a second cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven gets the job done. The weight of the second pan compresses the mushrooms and allows a nice crunchy crust to form while keeping them juicy and tender on the inside. Once you do this a couple of times, you might start keeping bricks in your kitchen!


  • 1⁄2 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 11⁄2 pounds (680 g) fresh mushrooms, such as oyster, maitake, lion’s mane, or portobello (one large piece or several medium pieces)
  • 2 teaspoons capers, rinsed if salt-packed
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges, for serving


  1. In a small bowl, combine the salt and pepper.
  2. In a large cast-iron skillet, heat the oil over medium-low heat until it begins to shimmer. Place the mushrooms in the skillet and sprinkle with half the salt and pepper mixture and half the capers. Cover the mushrooms with a sheet of foil, folding it into a round to cover the mushrooms and fit the contours of the skillet.
  3. Place a Dutch oven or another cast-iron skillet the same size as the first one on top of the foil. With two kitchen towels or oven mitts, press down firmly on the skillet to flatten the mushrooms beneath it; the mushrooms will release moisture as they cook. Press intermittently until a nice crust has formed, 10 to 12 minutes.
  4. Flip the mushrooms over, sprinkle with the remaining salt and pepper mixture and capers, and cook the other side the same way, weighting and pressing intermittently for about 10 minutes longer.
  5. Remove from the heat and serve hot, with lemon wedges for squeezing.

Photographer Andrea Gentl reconnected with her upbringing when on assignment, shooting mushroom foraging with Connie Green, who collected the fungi for the French Laundry and with Magnus Nilsson of Faviken. Photo by Martin Hyers.

Mushroom and cauliflower carnitas, crispy shiitake bacon on an endive wedge salad, and a rack of oyster mushrooms are recipes included in “Cooking with Mushrooms: A Funghi Lover’s Guide to the World’s Most Versatile, Flavorful, Health-Boosting Ingredients.” Photo courtesy of Artisan.