Friday, February 3, 2012

Put Your Stock in Mushrooms...or Put Your Mushrooms in Stock

Dont let the look of mushroom stems deceive you. These things are packed with flavor.
Here at F&FP, we have a weekly toss of all the unusable mushroom bits and compostables.This includes coffee grounds (go figure), old mushrooms, and stems. Often thought of as woody and useless, the stems are usually thrown out and composted. Composting is great, but what if we could make use of these stems? Many people (myself included) become so excited when they find new and innovative mushroom recipes we forget the very foundation upon which those recipes were created. Personally, I didn’t really want to bother with it. For some time, Mary Ellen has been hinting around for a mushroom stock recipe, so I’ve finally gotten over the apprehension and experimented.

At first glance, mushroom stems appear, for lack of a better word, gross. They’re usually covered in dirt or wood particles and have a funny smell. Once you get over the thought of those in your soup, however, their prospects are quite lovely. When simmered slowly, the stems release their pungent mushroom flavor and lend a silky brown color to your stock, which can then be used for soup, gravy, casseroles, etc… For some, pure mushroom stock may be a bit too overpowering. Using a variety of other vegetables will tone down the strong flavor. In addition, including a few key ingredients early in the process will create a harmonious marriage of flavors making for a smooth, luxurious taste experience. These “secret” ingredients may include ginger, shallots, carrots, kale, thyme…the list goes on and on. You have control over the ingredients, including sodium, which makes it unparalleled by store-bought alternatives. Stock is incredibly versatile, so make it work for you!

I have to admit, the thought of making a stock from scratch was a bit intimidating. What if it didn’t turn out and all that time was wasted? I couldn’t help but picture Gordon Ramsay yelling choice expletives. However, the process really is quite simple, effortless and honestly, hard to mess up. The end result is well worth the time and will fill your house with the tantalizing aroma of homemade goodness. During the simmering process, you may notice a few specks of the substrate used to grow the mushrooms floating around. This is ok, as they will be strained out at the end and are completely harmless. The stock will keep in the refrigerator for a few days or may be canned or frozen for future use.

Surprise your taste buds with some Mushroom and Tofu Soup.
Mushroom Stock

3 to 4 C mushroom stems-dirt trimmed away
2 large carrots, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
About 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
About ¼ C soy sauce
A pinch of sage and thyme
About 10 C water, more if you prefer
Drizzle a little olive oil in a large pot and add the garlic and onions. Saute for a few minutes then add the rest of the ingredients. Cover and simmer for about 2 hours, or until the stock is dark and flavorful. Let it cool a little, and strain through a cheese cloth to remove any undesired particles. Twist and press to squeeze out the excess liquid.

Mushroom and Tofu Soup

The vegetables in this soup can be omitted or substituted. If seaweed isn’t for you, simply leave it out. Miso would go a long way in this soup if you like its flavor, I just didn’t have any on hand at the time. Adding a dash of your favorite stir-fry sauce would create a little variation.

8 C homemade mushroom stock
About 2 C Shiitake mushrooms, sliced thin
1 clove garlic, minced
A small piece ginger, minced
1 small shallot
1 small can bamboo shoots
1 small can sliced water chestnuts
½ block extra firm tofu, cut into bite size squares
Fresh or frozen snow peas, a handful or two
2 Tbsp parsley
1 Tbsp chives
About 1 tsp red pepper flakes, more or less as desired
1 sheet nori or wakame (or any seaweed product. It is typically located near the specialty/natural foods section in grocery stores), soaked then torn into small pieces
A squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Lightly sauté the shallot, garlic, and ginger in olive oil. Add the stock and mushrooms, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients. Cover and continue to simmer about 10 more minutes.