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Until the last decade, white mushrooms were the only kind of edible fungi commonly available in most supermarkets.

Also known as common mushroom or button mushroom, white mushrooms are immature specimens of the fungus agarius bisporus. Left to grow, they're sold as big, meaty portobello mushrooms.

Mushrooms have been cultivated for sale since the 18th century, but they were mostly brown until the early 1900s. A Pennsylvania farmer is credited with spotting a clump of snow-white mushrooms and spreading the variety in the United States.

White mushrooms are commonly used in stir-fries and stews alike. They're pickled, roasted and stuffed for appetizers.

Coming clean: Despite the common assertion that mushrooms shouldn't be dunked while cleaning them to avoid absorbing water, water won't hurt the mushrooms. Weighing mushrooms before and after dunking shows they absorb little water. But wash them just before use, and don't let them linger in the refrigerator.

Here, white mushrooms, quartered to retain some of their character, add texture to a rich spin-off of beef stroganoff, the classic American homestyle dish. It substitutes Italian sausage for half of the ground beef to add flavor.

>Italian Beef Stroganoff

1 pound ground beef

1 pound Italian sausage

2 teaspoons oregano

1 teaspoon granulated garlic

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 cup water

2 cups or more white mushrooms, quartered

1 cup thinly sliced onion

1 1/2 cups sliced celery

1 cup sour cream, plus more for garnish (optional)

1/2 cup sliced scallions, for garnish

Egg noodles

Heat large skillet. Squeeze sausage out of casings into pan, followed by beef. Add chili powder, oregano, salt, garlic and pepper. Cook until meat is done. Remove meat from pan and reserve. Remove all but 2 tablespoons fat from pan.

Saute onions, mushrooms and celery over medium high heat until soft and most of the liquid released from mushrooms has evaporated, 8-10 minutes. Return cooked meat to pan. Add soup and water, stir to combine, and simmer for five minutes.

Add sour cream, if using, and stir until well combined. Serve over egg noodles. Garnish with scallions.

e-mail: agalarneau@buffnews.com