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Cooking with Dried Mushrooms

Dried mushrooms have intense flavor. Mushrooms are mostly water, so when all of the moisture evaporates, the flavor becomes highly concentrated. When choosing dried mushrooms, look for large pieces with a uniform, dark color, since darker dried mushrooms usually have more flavor. Avoid dried mushrooms with tiny hole in the flesh, which may indicate that bugs have been living there. If possible,m smell dried mushrooms before you buy them. They should have a deep and rich aroma.

Choosing from among varieties of dried mushrooms
The variety of dried mushroom you choose will, of course, depend on the dish, but here are three ideas to get you started. If you are making a cream sauce or a veal or poultry dish,m consider dried morels. These darlings of the dried mushroom world have wonderful earthy flavor and meaty texture. For Chinese dishes, consider dried shiitakes, also called black Chinese mushrooms. They have tough stems that should be cut off and discarded after soaking (or you can add them to stock for flavor).

Storing and preparing dried mushrooms
Always keep dried mushrooms in the freezer, where they will be safe from insect infestation, and use within 1 year. Soak each 1/2 ounce of dried mushrooms in half cup hot tap water for 30 minutes. Plug out the reconstituted mushrooms with a slotted spoon, leaving the liquid in the bowl. Squeeze the mushrooms with your fingers to release as much of the liquid as possible back into the bowl. The mushrooms will have given up much of their flavor to the soaking liquid, but you can chop them and add them to the recipe for texture. Strain the soaking liquid through wet cheesecloth or a damp coffee filter to remove any grit. The liquid will be highly flavored, especially when re-hydrating porcini mushrooms.

Whenever possible, add this mushroom liquid to the recipe, replacing other liquids in the recipe if necessary. Freeze any leftover soaking liquid to flavor sauces, stews, braises, and other food that requires mushroom flavor.

How to retain more flavor in dried mushrooms when soaking?
Rehydrate them in cold water instead of hot. It will take longer, but more flavor will remain in the mushroom. This re-hydrating technique is especially useful if you are using only the mushrooms, and not the soaking liquid in the recipe.

Saving soaking time for dried mushrooms
Use boiling water instead of hot tap water. Soaked in boiling water as most dried mushrooms will re-hydrate in 10 to 15 minutes. When you use boiling water, more flavor will be released into the soaking liquid, so be sure to add the soaking liquid to the recipe if possible. Otherwise, soak the dried mushrooms ahead of time in cold water, then store them in a covered jar in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

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