Ingredient Introduction #18 – Shiitake Mushrooms

I am famous, well.. in my own home, for making a dish, and never making it again.

It drives my partner in cuisine crime crazy.

My main excuse is that I never write down recipes. I’m still kicking myself for not taking notes on the chili I concocted about eight years ago. I haven’t been able to get it right since.

This electronic chicken-scratch you’re perusing right now puts my excuse to shame. It’s forced me to keep track of what I cook with and how much of it I use. Still, I’ll admit, I don’t do it for daily dinners.

The funny thing is that in 2010, I entered a recipe contest. Men’s Health Magazine had a section called “Short-Order Cook” on its website. The challenge was to come up with a healthy dish that used 10 ingredients or less. I think there was a time constraint, too.

One night I went for it. I used what I had on hand and created what I called “Shrimp Faux-Mein,” a play on shrimp lo-mein.

Here’s the write-up I used:
“This is your goop-free, sans-sugary-sauce answer to lo-mein.”

And guess what? I won!

My prize, a beautiful enameled-cast iron Dutch oven. It makes an elephant seem like a Jenny Craig success story, but from time-to-time, I find the strength to pull it out of the cabinet and use it.

Despite countless requests from my partner in cuisine crime, I hadn’t made the dish since.

So, I decided to treat him, and introduce a new ingredient at the same time.

Here’s what you need:

20 shrimp, de-shelled
1 crown of broccoli, cut into florets
5 Brussels sprouts, quartered
1 small cooking onion, chopped
½ box of whole wheat blend linguine or spaghetti
1 cup unsalted chicken broth
2 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. powdered ginger
2 tbsp. canola oil
Salt & pepper
1 package of shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps sliced –Ingredient Introduction—

Here’s how you make it:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

While the water heats, heat the canola oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion, and season with salt and pepper.
Cook the onion until it starts to soften, about 3 or 4 minutes.

Add in the mushroom slices, stir to coat with oil. Cook until the mushrooms begin to brown, about 5 minutes.

Add the broth and soy sauce, stir. Add ginger and mustard, stir. Then bring the mixture to a boil. Let it boil for about 4 or 5 minutes, and then turn the heat down to medium-low.

Your water should be boiling now. Add a pinch of salt and pepper to the water. Add the pasta, and set a time for 7 minutes.

When 7 minutes is up, toss the broccoli and Brussels sprouts into the water. Set the time for 5 minutes.

In the meantime, add the shrimp to the sauce mixture and cook until the shrimp is pink, about 5 to 7 minutes.

When the pasta time is up, drain, and add the noodles, broccoli and Brussels sprouts to the sauce, and toss.

Serve in a bowl, then add a swirl of Sriracha for a kick.

Honestly, I was surprised at how good this came out. I know it won a contest and everything, but still.

It’s super light. The ginger and mustard add a nice creamy bite. The Brussels sprouts and broccoli are bright, and fresh.

You won’t miss Chinese take-out, I promise.

As for the mushrooms…

I can’t help but stop and hold a moment of silence for one of my favorite uses of the shiitake mushroom: an episode of the Golden Girls.

Dorothy (Bea Arthur) was filling in as a substitute teacher. She tried to keep the school’s star football player from playing in the big game because of his grades. Turns out, he ended up getting hurt while playing football. Dorothy stopped by the hospital to wish him well, and sign his cast. She got out a marker, went to the cast, and said, “There is no K in victory. Oh yeah, and we’ll just change this to ‘Ms. Zbornak eats shiitake mushrooms.’”

The shiitake (shi-tah-kee) mushroom actually grows on logs. It’s said to boost your immune system, and even help the cardiovascular system. It’s also loaded with vitamins and minerals. The American Cancer Society mentions the mushroom on its website.

You can find them fresh, or dried. The dried kind should be rehydrated before you cook with them.

I used a container of the fresh ones. They were on sale, too. Score!

They don’t require the cleaning that regular mushrooms need, because shiitake mushrooms don’t touch the dirt.

The stems shouldn’t be eaten either. They’re said to be tough and bitter. But don’t throw them out. Just cut them off where they meet the cap. Put the stems in a re-sealable bag and freeze them.

Use them for stocks or soups. Let them infuse the broth, then toss them.

A raw shiitake mushroom is somewhat spongy and chewy. They soften considerably when you cook them.

As soon as they hit the pan and started to cook, there was an earthy, woodsy, almost meaty aroma that filled the air. It instantly made me hungry. It’s the aromatic, hearty scent you get at a good Asian restaurant.

I think they added depth to the sauce for my shrimp faux-mein. I mean, usually mushrooms are more of a texture than a flavor. I think they added both to this dish. Next time, though, I’ll leave the caps whole since they shrink down so much. Plus, I think I’ll add twice as much to the pan.

I’m already thinking about making a Thai soup with more shiitake mushrooms, the stems, lemongrass, and kafir lime leaf in my freezer. Yum!

Next time you’re craving Chinese, make this. It’s healthier, and in my opinion, it has more flavor. I know I’ll be making this more often.

Pause for my partner in cuisine crime’s small, but meaningful celebration.

It’s a winner – literally!

Tip: Never run mushrooms of any kind under water to clean them. They act like little sponges and soak up all the moisture. That means they won’t brown when they hit your pan. Instead, wet a paper towel and brush the caps to remove any dirt.


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Yum-o-roo! Who knew when you described this Sunday that I would see it and the pot in my email today! Can’t wait to try it. Do you think you can use fresh ginger??

    1. I’m a HUGE fan of fresh ginger, but I didn’t have any when I made this. You probably could use the fresh stuff, but I do think it would change the flavor. I also think the powdered ginger helped thicken the sauce just a tad. I was looking up conversion numbers for powdered to fresh and it’s insane. I think it would need to be 12-24 tablespoons of fresh to create 1 tablespoon of the powdered stuff. Can you believe that?!

  2. This sounds SO good, I just printed out the recipe and can’t wait to try it!! Thank you for posting it!

    1. Yay!! Please let me know what you think!

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