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Photo: Claire Lower
A shaved truffle, whether on a bowl of pasta, a fluffy pile of scrambled eggs, or medium-rare ribeye, is the height of foodie indulgence, but I do not have truffle money. My budget is decidedly more “dried shiitake,” but that’s OK, because those little things are delicious.
You can’t shave a dried mushroom like you would a truffle, but you can microplane it, and the resulting mushroom dust is warm, savory and earthy. It floats down in a cloud, resting on your food in a fluffy, umami-packed pile.
Flavor-wise, a dried shiitake is much less pungent than a truffle; instead of a punch in the face, you get a gentle hug on the tongue. It’s subtle and sneaky—you won’t think it adds much at first, but the earthy umami builds and lingers, keeping you coming back for more. I like to think of it as a softer, dirtier MSG, and I really can’t recommend it enough.
You can use whatever dried mushrooms you like, but I used shiitakes because that is what I had, and because they taste great. The little fluffy specks look a little like shaker parm, which makes them an excellent vegan finisher for pastas, beans, and popcorn.
Thanks to the gentle nature of the mushroom, you can really pile it on. Microplane until whatever you’re eating is covered in a thick, downy coverlet, then microplane more as you see fit. I just had some on my scrambled eggs, and I’ll be doing it again.
In addition to finishing foods with shrooms, you can mix the powder into meatballs, stir it into sauces, or take a page from Marc Matsumoto’s cookbook and grate some shiitakes over salmon before slowly roasting it in the oven. The fish won’t taste overwhelmingly mushroomy, but it will taste better, and better is something I always strive to be.
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