Several years ago, Mr. Tess and a friend decided to grow shiitake mushrooms. No, not with one of those kits you set up in your basement. They did lots of research (something like this pdf link), cut logs, drilled holes, innoculated them, and I don’t know what all. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. I still buy my shiitake at the grocery store. I bought a bag of dried shiitake the other day. They were not the finest donko shiitake, but they were affordable and looked nice. You can see their pretty caps patterned like a tortoise shell.
Shiitake mushrooms are native to Japan. Though fresh shiitake have more texture than regular white button mushrooms, they are tender and soften with cooking. When dried they have a richer flavor, a more intense fragrance, and a chewy texture even after cooking. Fresh shiitake are good for grilling, stir-frying, deep-frying, and simmering. Cooking time should be short or the mushrooms will loose juice and flavor. Reconstituted dried shiitake can take longer cooking times. The water in which they are soaked is flavorful and contains water soluble nutrients. This liquid can be used to prepare a vegetarian basic stock for soups.
This is a traditional way of cooking dried shiitake. They can be served with other simmered vegetables, sliced to use as a noodle topping, or minced with shiso or parsley and tossed with rice and toasted white sesame seeds.
Sweet Simmered Dried Shiitake Mushrooms
Hoshi Shiitake no Umani
6 to 7 mushrooms
- 6 to 7 large dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in cold water for 20 minutes
- 1 Tablespoon sake
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons usukuchi shoyu (light-colored soy sauce) or shoyu
- pinch of salt
Drain the mushrooms, preserving the soaking liquid. Cut away and discard the stems.
In a small saucepan, combine the mushroom caps and the reserved soaking liquid. Add enough additional water to barely cover the mushroom caps. Add the sake and bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, and cook the mushrooms, cover with a drop lid, for 10 minutes.
Add the sugar, and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the soy sauce and salt, and cook until almost all the liquid is absorbed. Let the mushrooms cool to room temperature before serving.
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