In general, shiitakes come in two forms: the slender stemmed variety and the ones which are fatter, with thicker stems and caps. Mitsuwa and SF Supermarket sell the fatter variety, which have a meater flavor.
With so many on hand, they can be used liberally in pastas and soups, grilled, and sautéed with garlic and shallots.
But how to store the ones not eaten those first couple of days?
Everyone knows that mushrooms should only be stored in the refrigerator in paper bags because kept in plastic they quickly go bad. Use a brown paper bag--not a white one, which is coated with wax so the moisture stays inside the bag--in combination with paper towels. The moisture that normally accumulates on the outside of the mushroom is absorbed by the layers of paper.
Kept in the refrigerator another week or two, the brown paper bag-paper towel combination acts as a dehydrator pefectly drying the mushrooms. This technique only works successfully with shiitakes.
If by chance any of the dried shiitakes develop mold, discard and keep the good ones. In my experience, more than 95% will dehydrate without harm.
To reconstitute dried shiitakes, put them in a heat proof bowl, pour in enough boiling water to cover, place a smaller bowl on top to keep the mushrooms submerged. Leave for 30 minutes until they soften.
Gently squeeze out the water but reserve the liquid for later use. Cut and discard the stems. At this point the mushroom caps can be cooked as if they were fresh.
Shiitake Mushroom Soup with Garlic
Shiitakes have a meaty, sweet flavor that is deliciously satisfying in this easy-to-make soup, perfect for a drizzly winter day.
Yield: Serves 4
Time: 45 minutes
2 cups shiitake mushrooms, fresh (stems and caps) or reconstituted (stems removed), washed, thin sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
4 shallots or 1 small yellow onion, peeled, findely chopped
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sea salt and pepper
In a large sauce pan, sauté the mushrooms, garlic, and shallots with the olive oil until lightly browned. Add the chicken stock and, if using reconstituted mushrooms, 1/2 cup of the soaking water. Simmer 30 minutes.
Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.
Substitute water for the chicken stock to make a vegetarian version, in which case simmer the mushrooms a bit longer and add 1 tablespoon of butter for flavor
Season with 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
Add to the saute 4 cups spinach leaves, washed, stems removed, roughly chopped
Add to the saute and brown 2 Italian sausages, roughly chopped,
Add to the saute and brown 1 chicken breast, roughly chopped
Add to the saute 1 cup fresh, deveined shrimp, roughly chopped
Add to the soup 1/4 cup cream and 1 tablespoon butter
Add to the soup at the end 2 packages ramen noodles cooked first in boiling water for 10 minutes then divided equally among the 4 servings