The earthy, smoky flavor of a fresh shiitake mushroom, often associated with Asian cooking, becomes more pronounced during dehydration. You can dry this meaty mushroom with its thin chewy stem in an oven or a dehydrator. Reconstituted, or dried shiitake mushrooms add flavor and texture to a variety of dishes.
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Clean and Prepare
Clean shiitakes by gently brushing them with a small brush or dry paper towel to remove dirt and debris. It's fine to soak them or wash them under cool running water, if you wish. Give these these delicate morsels a little shake to remove excess water, then simply blot them gently with paper towels to dry them, or give them a whirl in the salad spinner. Remove stubborn pieces of dirt with a damp towel if necessary.
Cut shiitakes into 1/8-inch thick slices or dry them whole. The larger the pieces, the longer it takes to dehydrate the mushrooms.
Dehydrate the Mushrooms
Place shiitakes in a single layer on food dehydrator trays; do not let the mushrooms touch one another. Rotate the trays every two hours to ensure even dehydration, and keep the food dehydrator in a well-ventilated area. After 4 to 10 hours, your shiitakes should be fully dehydrated.
To dry mushrooms in the oven, place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet or tight mesh drying rack; as with the dehydrator, do not let the pieces touch. Set the oven to the lowest possible setting, often around 140 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. If the oven cannot go this low, set it to the lowest temperature possible, and leave the oven door ajar. Turn and blot the mushrooms every hour to absorb any moisture, repeating this step until the mushrooms are fully dry.
Dehydrated shiitakes are ready for storage only when they have the texture of crackers. Mushrooms that have not been fully dehydrated before storage are at risk of developing mold.
Store and Reconstitute
Store dehydrated mushrooms in an airtight container in a cool environment, where they can stay good for a number of years. Reconstitute dried shiitakes by soaking them in lukewarm or boiling water for roughly 30 minutes. The cooler the water and the larger the mushroom, the longer it takes.
Using Dried Shiitake Mushrooms
Dried shiitake mushrooms can be powdered to add as a seasoning for marinades, soups or sauces. You can even use the powder to flavor meats, such as ground beef for a burger. Because they can be reconstituted with stocks as well, dried shiitakes are often added whole -- still dried -- to soups, where the long simmering softens the mushroom. If you are soaking the mushrooms separately, save the soaking liquid for future use, to boost the flavor of soups and stocks.
Reconstituted shiitakes can be sauteed whole for a meaty addition to a vegetarian stir-fry or sliced finely and mixed with peas and onions to serve with polenta. Shiitakes can withstand a lot of spice, but the naturally strong flavor means it adds depth to lightly seasoned dishes as well.