Get Cooking: Using dried mushrooms

I am guessing that most of you cooks do not have a packet of dried mushrooms in your pantry. If you do, it’s something like the jar of spices for mulled wine that you got for Valentine’s Day three years ago, or the fenugreek seeds that you had to buy for the last time you cooked that Indian dish (in your college dorm).

Well, go get a cellophane of dried porcini on your next grocery excursion. (Regarding desiccated fungi, the best deals and widest selections are at Asian grocers.)

Properly stored, an ounce of dried mushrooms lasts for months, but once you realize how often you can use them, you won’t keep them that long. Little else adds so much flavor to so many foods or preparations than the simple dried ‘shroom.

If “an ounce” sounds as if it isn’t much, really, consider that you’re likely never to run into any recipe calling for more — not even something that might serve six or eight. A mere few grams is all one needs to boldly mark a stew or broth, or top a portion of pasta, or add super depth to a three-egg omelet.

However, for something so simple, a few things to keep in mind at the kitchen counter:

All dried mushrooms must be reconstituted in some sort of liquid. Water is the default, but if I’m already cooking with a flavorful liquid (wine, beer, juice, broth), I use that to enliven the dried mushrooms.

Typically, I warm the liquid first (microwave more than OK), although I’ve been experimenting with overnight room-temp liquid soaks that I find especially kind to the rather gnarly dried shiitake. (With shiitake, also, break off the very tough stems before soaking, if possible; keep those for making stock.)

Never toss away the soaking liquid, though it must be strained of the ubiquitous grit found in all dried mushrooms. (Coffee filters and paper toweling are handy here, or a steady pour off the dregs.) The soaking liquid, now hugely boosted in the flavor and aroma of the forest floor, goes into the final cooking preparation.
Don’t buy any dried mushrooms with small holes in the cap’s flesh; such might indicate a former pinworm colonization.
It’s OK to rinse (and then gently squeeze) the mushrooms once removed from the soaking liquid. You’re not going to flush away a lot of flavor, but you are going to get rid of the last of the grit.
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Source:: The Denver Post – Lifestyle

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