Shitake mushrooms are often found in Asian cuisines, particularly in Japanese and Chinese dishes. The lone shitake mushroom has boomed in popularity and can be found in lot of Western menus and fusion kitchens. This is largely because of the health benefits attributed to them. They are known to reduce cholesterol, contain chemicals that contribute to a strong immune system, help in lowering blood pressure and more. Wild shitakes grow on dried wooden logs, hence the distinct, smoky flavor of this exotic ingredient. Compared to the button mushroom, the shitake has a chewier and meatier texture. You will often be able to buy dried shitakes from a store, and some specialty groceries could carry fresh shitake mushrooms. If you would like to incorporate this nutritious ingredient in your diet, here are a few suggestions on how you can make the most of it.
Remember that before you start, you should clean the shitake mushrooms. For fresh ones, it's best to give them a good wipe down. Mushrooms are very porous and absorbent, and as much as possible you want to avoid getting them in water before the cooking process. Dried shitake mushrooms, however, are okay to be washed in water before being cooked.
1. Sauteed Shitake
This is probably the simplest way to prepare and enjoy a bowl of shitake mushrooms, and also one of the tastiest. If you can prepare this properly, the mushrooms will retain their unique woody flavor and meaty texture. Slice the shitake mushrooms thinly. Also slice up a small onion, and mince a clove of garlic. On a small pan, heat up some olive oil, and throw in the onion and garlic for a minute. Pour the thinly-sliced shitakes and cook until they're soft. You can munch on this as is, or go Asian and serve on a plate of rice. It's simple, quick, tasty and healthy.
2. Grilled Mushrooms
Throw some shitake mushrooms on the grill along with your other barbecue fare. For an even tastier dish, you can prep them by rubbing a little bit of oil on each one. For a more flavorful bunch, rub in some salt and pepper. Rosemary or thyme would also be great flavor add-ons. Put on the grill for about 4 minutes each side.
3. Steamed Shitake
This is a very simple way to prepare the mushrooms, and this style also provides much versatility. Just place the mushrooms in a covered pan, add a bit of water or broth in it, and pop it in the oven to steam. Don't go over 30 minutes to avoid a soggy dinner. Once finished, make sure to set aside the juices from it, as this will make a great gravy sauce.
4. Shitake Mushroom Sauce
The juices from the shitake have a lot of distinct flavor to them too, and would be great as gravy, sauce or even soup. In a pan, mix together some beef stock, flour and shortening. If you recently steamed some shitake mushrooms, use the stock from this as well for a more robust flavor. Add a pinch of salt and dash of freshly ground pepper. Throw in some shitake mushrooms, and saute for about 5 minutes. You have a great mushroom sauce to complement your dishes.