Chef Ernesto Battered Mushrooms (Dollar Tree)

A borrowed image of the box to Chef Ernesto Battered Mushrooms
These are pretty good for what they are...dollar-store mushrooms. (source: ChooseVeg)

I do not like mushrooms all that much, but I do like revisiting such foods every once in a while, just to see if (or how) my tastes have changed. In this case, my acceptance of mushrooms was precipitated by having a bowl of mushroom soup at a fancy restaurant a couple of years ago…the broth the soup was cooked in was so rich and creamy that even when I got to the huge chunks of mushroom at the bottom, I eagerly slurped them down like a homeless man at a soup kitchen. 

A lot of people are turned off by the texture--mushrooms are, after all, often incredibly slimy--but that’s never really bothered me so much as the taste. I just do not like the earthiness, and don’t feel like it pairs well with many things. But then the alternative to a slimy mushroom, like the dry ones offered as a topping at many pizza chains, are too dry, and feel like the equivalent of eating wood shards.

I first caught a glimpse of Chef Ernesto’s Battered Mushrooms a while ago at Dollar Tree. I saw the box, probably made a disgusted face, and then moved on, without contemplating them or giving them so much as another glance. But lately, thanks to my wife who likes to stay away from meat as much as possible, I have a newfound appreciation for vegetarian foods; after trying Chef Ernesto’s Veggie Burgers and absolutely loving them, all of a sudden the mushrooms started looking better and better with each passing trip. Finally, I grabbed them.

The first thing that shocked me were the size and portion of the mushrooms. Given the fact I only paid a dollar, I was expecting small pieces of mushroom outcasts that would have otherwise ended up in the trash can had Chef Ernesto himself not saved them from certain doom. But I was shocked to see that many of them were about the same size you would get if ordered as an appetizer at a restaurant. Beyond that, you get quite a bit of them…easily enough for two people (though the four servings per box allotted on the nutrition label is a bit of a stretch), making it the perfect size for an appetizer.

Cooking was quick and easy: pop them in an oven preheated to 350, wait about ten minutes, and you’re good to go. Honestly, they didn’t get as crisp in the oven as I was expecting after the allotted time, so we broiled them for a couple minutes. That helped a little bit, but there was still no noticeable “crunch”. Maybe I’m just expecting too much from dollar-store mushrooms, but it's still worth mentioning.

Right out of the oven, the first thing I noticed just how greasy they are, which is kind of humorous, considering the back of the box touts them as a “healthy snack” (every 2 oz. serving contains 25% of your daily fat content and 18% sodium, so I wouldn‘t buy that at all). Still, they looked pretty inviting, and I was looking forward to digging in. Since I’m not a fan of mushroom as a rule, I decided to “enhance” the flavor by dipping them in buttermilk ranch dressing (adding to the healthiness).

Wow. I have to say that the combination was very close to restaurant quality. Of course, we’re not talking a high-end restaurant, but if you’ve ever had fried mushrooms from a bar and grill, these will more than likely remind you of those, and for a fraction of the price. Now, keep in mind that this is with the addition of ranch; without it, the combination is somewhat bland: the batter really doesn’t add too much flavor, and as we all know, mushrooms aren’t the tastiest things in the world on their own. But dipping them really took them to a whole ‘nother level, to the extent that I would definitely get these again. Color me impressed.

Another side note: they sit heavy on the stomach. I already felt ten pounds heavier after only eating a few, so these would not make a good appetizer or side for a heavy meal--the grease really does do a number on you. But hey, at least there's no cholesterol! That has to count for something.

Overall: 7/10. I’m not a big fan of mushrooms, but for some reason really wanted to try these. On their own, they’re a little boring (as mushrooms tend to be), but after dipping them in some ranch to enhance the flavor, it really took them to the next level; taste wise, I would seriously say these are close to restaurant quality (low-end restaurant, but restaurant nonetheless). The batter really doesn’t add much flavor, and doesn’t even get that crispy in the oven, but somehow it‘s good enough. You also get quite a bit for a dollar, so there's some value in spades. The main drawback is the grease...there's so much of it, that these really sit heavy in the stomach after only a couple, making it more suited as a snack or accompaniment to a lighter meal. This also relegates it to a very infrequent buy.