Sure, he’s a fungi. But the real reason the mushroom is invited to the party is because that unmistakable umami flavor makes everything taste more interesting. Shiitakes especially: High levels of the amino acid glutamate give them a potent, meaty, smoky vibe. Try them dried into “salt” for popcorn. (How fun is that?)
Unlike other mushrooms, which grow in soil, shiitakes grow on logs and are much cleaner. To prep, quickly wipe them with a dry paper towel and remove their tough stems.
Just Add Water
It’s fine to substitute dried shiitakes for the fresh variety. In fact, the dried ones deliver a richer, more intense flavor. To rehydrate, soak in boiling water (removed from heat) for 30 minutes. Pat dry and use as you would fresh. Don’t toss the soaking water: It makes a delicious base for soups!
Recipes by Paige Grandjean