Satchels of Dried Mushroom Stock for Everyday Flavor

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A note from Maggie

In case you were wondering, food gifts go way beyond the sweet; they can be savory, indulgent, and so very helpful. Consider these Dried Mushroom Stock Satchels, a gift that blows me away every single time I glance at them. I’ve been adding dried mushroom powder to my vegetable stocks and now, I can gift that same concept to everyone, especially my chef friends and vegetarian kindred spirits who want to make a simple broth or improve the flavor of a braised dish. Also, they’re so darn cute.

There’s a stall at my local market that sells nothing but mushrooms. The owners are two brothers from Yunnan, a region 2000 miles southwest of Beijing. The first spends his time foraging for fungi in the steamy woodlands of the south, a province famous across China for its myriad of mushrooms growing along the border of Myanmar. He then ships them up to the capital and the older brother sells them.

The stall is a fascinating space tucked behind a homemade-tofu stand. It has two fold-out tables under a sagging white and blue canopy. There are always a few dozen white ice-boxes and in each a handful of a fresh fungus, each one so vastly different from its neighbor.

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The wood’s ears are glossy and jellied, the oysters shimmer a blue-purple, and the reishis are slimy and wet, while the black trumpets sit shriveled like forgotten flowers alongside strands of rusty orange enoki and boxes of shitakes with their speckled hoods and witch-finger stalks.

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People are fanatical about mushrooms; they collect, they hunt, they forage. The mystery of mushrooms is that we don’t quite understand them – they come from another world, a dark subterranean world we can never inhabit. We have no control over mushrooms, they are difficult to cultivate and a challenge to find. But in the kitchen, I’m never without them. Mushrooms, in all their shapes and sizes, are my go-to-ingredient when I need an injection of flavor in my food. A good mushroom stock has saved my risotto from mediocrity many times.

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Of course, it’s not always practical to keep fresh mushrooms, so I’ll often dry my stash of shitakes or oysters and have an instant stock waiting for me by the stove. Drying your mushrooms intensifies the flavor, so instead of a handful of two-week-old shriveled fungi in the refrigerator, you can have a rich and earthy stock mix at the ready. You could put nothing but mushrooms in your stock mix and it would still be great, but I think a touch of spice gives it a bit more power.

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Dried Mushroom Stock

An alternative method to the oven is to air dry the vegetables. Slice thinly as before, and hang above a radiator or in the airing cupboard for 36 hours. I sometimes prefer this method as there is no chance of burning the slices.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups shitake mushrooms
  • 2 cups oyster mushrooms
  • 2 cups white button mushrooms
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs thyme

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 150°F. Clean the mushrooms to remove any dirt or mud in the crevices.
  2. Slice the mushrooms and vegetables very thinly, about 1/4 inch each, almost so they look like chips. Pat them down so that no moisture remains.
  3. Arrange the mushrooms and vegetables onto parchment-lined baking sheets and make sure they do not overlap.
  4. Place the oven in 1 hour and then turn the mushroom slices and vegetables over. The garlic will be done before the other veggies, so remove once it is dry and crispy but not burnt.
  5. Return the trays to the oven for another hour. Remove from the oven and allow the vegetables to cool on a cooling rack for 20 minutes. At this stage they should be crisp, but if they're not, then put in the oven for another 30 minutes.
  6. Once all the vegetables are dry and cool, combine with the chili powder, nutmeg, celery salt, salt, pepper, bay leaf, and thyme in a mortar and pestle or a food processor. Pound (or pulse) until the vegetables become a chunky powder.

Materials

  • Decorative tissue paper
  • Ribbon or string
  • Brown paper bag
  • Clothes peg

Directions

  1. Cut the decorative paper into squares. Add a tablespoon of dried stock mix to the middle and roll up into a tube.
  2. Squeeze the ends, and tie with ribbon or string so they look like sweets or bonbons.
  3. Add the "bonbons" to the gift bag until there is about five in each bag.
  4. I prefer to seal the bag with a painted peg, and then decorate it with a whole dried shitake mushroom. Don’t forget to write a nice little message.
Photos styled and taken by Sean St. John

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