Why Use Dried Mushrooms?
Mushrooms are one of the most versatile ingredients you can have in your arsenal. The problem is that, like most good things, they can be pretty short-lived. Fresh mushrooms typically only keep for a week or so. Many varieties can also be hard to find due to their seasonal availability. Dried mushrooms solve both of these problems. They will hold up just fine in your pantry for years. And because they are so sturdy, you can stock your favorite varieties year-round. As an added bonus, dried mushrooms don’t require refrigeration and can rehydrate to 3-4 times their size, making storage a snap.
How to Rehydrate Dried Mushrooms
You can use dried mushrooms in just about any recipe that calls for mushrooms, though they require just a little bit of extra prep work. We generally recommend rehydrating dried mushrooms before use. Be aware that, as mentioned above, the mushrooms will expand significantly. In general, you should plan on using about 3-4 ounces of dried mushrooms for every pound of fresh mushrooms you need. You can use a few different methods to rehydrate the mushrooms, which we will cover below.
The Classic Method
The most common method calls for soaking the mushrooms in warm water. Just place the mushrooms in a bowl or pot, cover with warm water, and let sit for 20-30 minutes. You may want to put a saucer or other small object on top of the mushrooms to keep them submerged. If you’re in a hurry, you can also use hot (not quite boiling) water and shorten the soaking time to 15 minutes. Just be warned that this can slightly affect the flavor and texture of the mushrooms. Also, be aware that it’s not uncommon for there to be a little dirt or grit stuck to the dried mushrooms, which will come out when rehydrated. So we recommend rinsing the mushrooms before use.
If you really want to get the best bang for your buck, DON’T discard the leftover soaking liquid. Now that it’s been getting friendly with your mushrooms, it will be infused with a beautiful, earthy flavor. Strain it through either a coffee filter or cheesecloth, and reserve it for use in stocks or sauces. You can even freeze the liquid for future use.
The French Press Method
Think of this as a slightly more elegant (and perhaps a bit more hip) version of the method outlined above. The big difference is that instead of using any old vessel to soak your mushrooms, it employs a French press. Now, we’re not saying you should run out and buy a new gadget. But if you happen to have one already (and you probably should), this will make things just a little easier.
The basic idea is that the French press’s plunger will help keep the mushrooms submerged. Say goodbye to that saucer you used to place on top! Just place your mushrooms in the press, fill with warm water, and let sit for 20-30 minutes. When the time is up, slowly press down on the plunger. If you’d like, you can very gently press down on the mushrooms a bit, which will help extract a little more flavor into the liquid. Just be careful not to crush them. Filter the liquid and reserve, as outlined above. Toss the mushrooms into your favorite recipe, and enjoy!
The Wine (or Stock) Method
Our final suggestion is a great way to impart even more delicious flavor into your dish. If your recipe involves wine or stock in addition to the mushrooms, why not combine the two? Rather than using warm water, you can soak the mushrooms directly in the wine or stock. You may want to warm it up first, to make rehydration easier. Then let sit for 20-30 minutes. Your mushrooms will soak up a bit of the flavor from your liquid. Your liquid will take on the earthy deliciousness of the mushrooms. Your dish will be bursting with even more flavor. It’s win-win!
Whichever method you choose, your mushrooms will be ready for whatever culinary adventure you have in store. Toss them in your favorite soup or stew. Serve them with a perfectly-grilled steak. Or simply sauté them in some butter and enjoy them on their own. Just don’t forget to always have this secret weapon on hand!
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