Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Dried and Delicious
Written by Mary Ellen
Exquisitely prepared dried Shiitake in Japan.
Not everyone has an indoor grow room to produce plump, fresh shiitake mushrooms for the holidays (although you can come close with our TableTop Farms). If you grew your own on logs last summer and dehydrated the surplus, don’t forget that Shiitake (and other dried mushrooms) make great gifts, especially if you can provide the recipient with some easy cooking ideas!
First, not every delicious fresh mushroom makes an equally delicious dried mushroom, which is something to consider before you actually go through the work of drying them.  The essence of each species of mushroom in its dried form is often very different from the fresh. The first time I ate a dried Shiitake I recalled the taste of the pinch of pipe tobacco I snuck from my dad's Prince Albert canister as a kid. I couldn’t get past the different flavor; nothing like the garlicky, buttery flavor of fresh shiitake! However, several years ago Joe and I visited Japan during the height of fresh shiitake season and we were astounded to find ourselves eating various exquisite preparations of DRIED shiitake… and loving it!
Almost all mushrooms can be dried, but some are coveted in the dried form. Here is a respectable list:
Shiitake (Japanese forest mushroom, Chinese black mushroom, etc)
King Bolete (cepes, porcini)
Netted Stinkhorn
Black Trumpet
If you have a mushroom to add to this list, please weigh in!
Give a gift of dried mushrooms this holiday season.
Here are some guidelines to follow if you are giving dried mushrooms as a gift:  

1.      Make sure the mushrooms are brittle dry. Sometimes they soften if not stored in an airtight container and are prone to molding. A plastic freezer bag or canning jar with a properly tightened canning lid will do the trick. If they are soft when you divvy them up for gifts, put them back in the dehydrator for an hour before re-packing.

2.      The “general directions for use” label might read: These mushrooms, grown with great labor of love, can be stored for months at room temperature as long as the storage container remains tightly closed.  For really long term storage, store in your freezer. To use: pour boiling water over the mushrooms in a bowl and let soak for 20 minutes. Strain the liquid and save as a broth.  Chop and sauté the mushrooms themselves (discarding the stem) and use as you would fresh mushrooms. 

Here are two very different recipes using dried shiitake (or the dried mushroom of your choice)
Simple Shiitake Sauce
This simple sauce might just knock your Christmas stockings right off!
This highly flavored sauce takes advantage of both the reconstituted shiitake and the resulting flavorful soaking liquid. Use it to sauce meats, fish, tofu or assertive vegetables such as cabbage or bok choy. Of course it’s also delicious on pasta.
1 c dried shiitake
1 c boiling water
¼ c chopped onion
1 clove garlic
½ tsp each sugar, soy sauce, salt
1 T flour
¼ c grated asiago or parmesan, optional
Pour boiling water over the dried mushrooms, soak for 20-30 min.  Meanwhile, sauté aromatics in 1 T butter. Add seasonings. Drain and strain the soak water from the mushrooms, saving the liquid. Slice the mushrooms, discarding the stem.  Add to the sauté pan and sprinkle with the flour, sautéing the whole bit for a few minutes. Slowly add the cream and soak water, cooking until the sauce reaches the consistency you like. Add cheese if desired.
Easy Spring Rolls with Shiitake
Refreshing spring rolls with dried Shiitake.
The body and soul often need a break from rich holiday food and festivities. These rolls are bright, crunchy, clean and can be so appreciated. If you’ve never made a spring roll do not hesitate to try this. The technique is useful and can be adapted to any fresh filling.
10-15 dried shiitake
10 or more round dried rice paper sheets
2 oz dried cellophane noodles
½ lb fresh bean sprouts
1 small cucumber, cut into match sticks
1 carrot, grated
4 T chopped peanuts
½ c chopped cilantro
Pour boiling water over the shiitake in a bowl and let sit for 20 minutes or more. Drain away the liquid (keeping for another use), squeeze the shiitake and blot with toweling to absorb the extra moisture. Thinly slice the shiitake, discarding the stem.
Pour boiling water over the cellophane noodles and let sit for 10 min. Drain and rinse with cold water.
Assemble all the vegetables, noodles and peanuts; have all the little bowls set in a line for easy filling.
Fill a cake pan with warm water and dip the rice sheets, one at a time, into the water  (make sure they are covered with water) to soften; 30-90 seconds. Lift out with tongs and set out flat on a dish towel.  Soften additional sheets as you work filling them.
Filling the sheets:
In the center of the softened rice sheet, layer the fillings (about 1/2 - 3/4 cup total) in a cigar shape in the center of the paper. Roll up the bottom, tuck in the sides and continue to roll to make a translucent, plump eggroll shape.  Cut in half and provide a dipping sauce.
Pineapple Dipping Sauce:
1 T rice wine vinegar
Juice from 1 lemon
Dab of chili oil or chili paste, or a red chili deseeded and thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
4 oz crushed pineapple, canned with juice
Mix it all together and divide into beautiful little bowls or saucers for dipping.


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