April 19, 2010

Crush It

It’s a question as old as time.  Which came first?  The shiitake mushroom or the shiitake mushroom dust?

Whether or not we ever solve this conundrum, the message is still clear. Dried mushrooms can be manipulated in a variety of ways to add a unique umami flavor to your food.  As we discovered last week, soaking shiitakes in water makes a wonderful low sodium, meat-free broth. But you are not limited to this single application or variety of mushroom – it just happens to be one of the cheapest. Any dirt-loving fungii, dried or fresh, will leech out its flavor if left to soak for long enough.

An equally delicious and even more fun application of dried mushrooms is crushing them to create a crumb or powder.

I was inspired by my friends Erin and Natalie when they made a poricini crusted lamb roast on the Martha Stewart Show/Google Iron Chef competition.  This recipe, and their inventive use of mushrooms, won them fame, notoriety, and a pile of Martha Stewart cookware.

So when cooking for the Mom’s birthday a few weeks ago, Boy and I decided to give mushroom powder a try. Because little Mama cannot stomach a lot of spice, we knew we needed to hit earthy and sweet notes instead.  We put some shitake mushrooms in the cuisinart and gave them a hearty pulse.  Then, before the rack of lamb hit the oven, we drizzled olive oil on the chops and rolled them in a mixture of herbs and mushroom dust.

Don’t expect the mushrooms to form a crispy crust.  Instead, it is almost as if they melt into the meat itself.  It’s a whole lot of yum and goes great with a spoonful of Frog Hollow Farm preserves. If you are looking for more of a crunch, though, add some breadcrumbs to the mix as well.

Dried mushrooms, whole or crushed, are a great flavor tool to keep stored in your cupboard for those days when you want everyday ingredients to taste a little extra special. I have also been known to sprinkle leftover dried mushrooms on sauteed chicken and roasted frittatas. The possibilities are endless. So get crushing and chow on.

AP April 19, 2010 at 8:55 am

Yum! Love shitake mushrooms in broth! An idea for you for a low sodium soup using them – shitake mushrooms, fresh ginger, part out a half or whole chicken, water, daikon radish. Let it simmer for a few hours and serve over white rice. You don’t even need salt!

sodium girl April 19, 2010 at 9:42 am

Awesome, Pao! Kaz taught me to make a similar broth, but without the daikon. That sounds delicious.

Stefan April 20, 2010 at 1:41 am

Crushed dried mushrooms? Now there´s something I haven´t thought of before. I´m pretty sure I still have that bag of dried Shitake at home. Hm …

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