Skagit Food Co-op blog:

The Bounty of Bulk

Bounty of Bulk – Dried Mushrooms

Browse our Bulk foods department and you’ll find a broad array of dry goods, herbs and spices, and dried mushrooms. Keep reading for simple ways to incorporate dried mushrooms into your diet. The Co-op offers dozens of dried mushrooms for culinary use. Though we enjoy them as a vegetable, mushrooms aren’t technically a plant; they’re fungi. Wild mushrooms grow in moist, dark places with plenty of decaying organic matter, such as wooded areas. Cultivated mushrooms are most often grown in peat-sawdust mixtures in controlled environments. Make an flavorful elixir and steep mushrooms in broth or boiled water for tea. Learn more in this Co+op guide on Mushrooms.

Dried Mushrooms 101

At first glance, bulk dried mushrooms might induce a little sticker shock, but don’t be fooled! They are super light and are packed with flavor; after being soaked, strained, and chopped, even just a small amount will add enormous flavor to a dish. You can soak dried mushrooms and use them in recipes in place of fresh mushrooms. Store dried mushrooms at room temperature or in the freezer, so you cant have them on hand to use whenever you need them!

Most dried mushrooms fall into two categories: Asian mushrooms like shiitake, wood ear, cloud ear, and matsutake, or European and American mushrooms like porcini, morel, trumpet, and chanterelle. Quality, flavor, and amount of grit can vary considerably. Dried mushrooms will last a long time — at least a year, if not more — if kept in a well-sealed container.

Dried mushrooms need to be reconstituted with water before you can use them, and this process produces two wonderful things: the mushrooms themselves and their flavorful soaking liquid. Both can be used in soups, stews, sauces, pâtés, and gratins. Often dried mushrooms are used in conjunction with not-so-flavorful button mushrooms to give them a boost. Dried mushrooms add a rich, meaty, savory note and are high in umami.

Photo: thekitchn.com

Soaking & Grit

The best way to reconstitute dried mushrooms is to simply soak them in water for 20 minutes or so. Start your mushrooms soaking as the first step in your recipe and use room temperature water. Use hot water for thickly sliced or capped mushrooms only if you are in a hurry, as more flavor will be extracted in the soaking water.

Many recipes call for hot or warm water, but others call for room temperature water. Each batch of mushrooms can be different. Some cooks feel room temperature water will soften the mushrooms and extract less of the flavor. Interested in using shiitake mushrooms? Read Andrea Nguyen’s Dried Shiitake Mushroom Tips for helpful information on making the most of these dried delicacies.

Some folks don’t rinse their mushrooms after soaking because they believe that the flavor will be diminished. Others rinse to remove any grit. If desired, give your soaked mushrooms a quick good rinse under running water to remove any hidden grit. Practice quality control: it’s a good idea to always taste one before adding it to your dish.

Using the Flavorful Broth

Photo: pinterest

No matter the temperature of the water, soaked mushrooms will produce a dark, flavorful broth. Don’t toss it out, save this intense brew to enhance your meals. Some recipes call for mushroom broth, but use it with caution as the strong flavor can overwhelm your dish. Store leftover broth in the fridge for a few days or freeze in ice cub trays for weeks.

Tip for grit: When soaking, mushroom grit gets released into the soaking water and sinks to the bottom of the bowl. To avoid adding the grit to your dish, either pour it out carefully or strain through a coffee filter or paper towel.

Recipes with Soaked Mushrooms

Be sure to find ways to use every morsel of every mushroom. For example, if you have stems that are too tough to eat, add them to stocks and sauces to boost flavor (remove before serving). When you reconstitute dried mushrooms, save that soaking water for cooking grains or making soup. When it comes to mushrooms—fresh or dried, wild or tamed—utilizing every last bit of their flavor-enhancing ability can boost the yum factor in your meals.

Photo: cislander / Getty Images

Slavic Dried Mushroom Soup

A simple yet satisfying mushroom soup. Across Russia and other Slavic countries, mushroom hunting and preservation is a national pastime. Dried mushrooms are often made into soups and sauces. This recipe for vegetarian mushroom soup is often served in the winter, especially around the meatless Russian Christmas Eve Holy Supper known as sochelnik or sochevnik.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups mushrooms, dried
  • 8 cups cold water
  • 1 clove garlic, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt (to taste
  • 2 tablespoons onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon butter (or oil)

Directions:

When soup is done, sauté onion in oil until browned and add to soup. Simmer for just a few minutes.

Porcini Cream Fettucine

Recipe adapted from emerils.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound fettuccine
  • 1/2 cup stemmed dried porcini, shiitake, or other mushrooms
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup minced shallots
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions:

  • Place the dried mushrooms in a medium bowl, cover with the hot water, and let sit until reconstituted and soft, about 20 minutes. Drain the mushrooms and their liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a clean bowl, squeezing the mushrooms to extract as much liquid as possible. Reserve the liquid and roughly chop the mushrooms. Set aside.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the fettuccini and cook until al dente, 7 to 8 minutes for dried pasta.
  • While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil and melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until soft and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Mix in the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the chopped mushrooms, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Pour in the reserved mushroom liquid, bring to a boil, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is nearly all evaporated, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Add the cream, thyme, salt, and pepper and return to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cream is reduced and thick, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the parsley and stir to incorporate.
  • Drain the pasta and add to the pan with the sauce, tossing well to coat. Add 4 tablespoons of the cheese, toss, and remove from the heat.
  • Divide the pasta between two large bowls, garnish each with 1 tablespoon of the remaining cheese, and serve immediately.
By: Claire

ClaireClaire Harlock Garber loves to eat and drink and write about it. She has worked in the food industry for nearly a decade and was on staff at the Skagit Valley Co-op from 2010-2018, writing the regular columns Skagit Brew Corner, The Cheese Whisperer, The Bounty of Bulk, and What's Dippin' in the Well for the Co-op's blog, as well as articles for the Natural Enquirer newsletter.