The shroomiest mushroom risotto, without breaking bank
when powdered and browned in hot grease, dried shiitake’s exponentially multiplied surface areas darken and deepen boundlessly, releasing every molecules of that shroominess that would otherwise cost you a limb
If you have ever found yourself frozen in front of the mushroom isles at your local Whole Foods Market, cold sweats dripping down as you struggle to understand how on earth could a fungi — categorically no different than the molds crawling underneath your drywalls — be charging sometimes more than $50 per pound, while feeling utterly shitty about yourself, well, this recipe is for you:
Poor man’s mushroom risotto.
I’m speaking from a place of deep empathy. Having been born as a relentlessly cheap human being, I understand the hurt when even a dickhead-shaped vegetation that lives off of decomposed matters could take one look at me, and smirk. A brainless, judgy brainless sponge that grows next to if not on top of rotten shits, thinks I’m not good enough. Who do they think they are? By the way I’m not talking about the cheap mushrooms like White Buttons, pfff... who do you think I am? I’m talking about the delicious ones, the truly robust, earthy, and nutty-flavored mushrooms with Elvish names, Chanterelle, Lactarius Indigo, Blue Foot, that grows in an enchanted woods with the fairies and talk to birds. Those fuckers. I ain’t sayin’ it’s a gold digger; but it ain’t messin’ with no broke n-beeeep.
Can you tell this is personal?
So for years, or more accurately since the 24 heads of dried morel we obtained from our France road trip had run dry, I’ve been secretly doing this.
Dried shiitake mushroom.
Cheap, common, found almost wherever Asian groceries stand and season-neutral. Why is it generally much more affordable than other varieties of dried mushrooms such as porcini, morels and etc? No idea (psst, because it’s Asian). But I can assure you that flavor-wise, it does not dwarf in comparison. In fact, it has been aiding the flavors and complexities of a huge number of Asian dishes, soups and stews, precisely because of its high natural-occuring MSG and a deep, musky, earthy aroma. But regrettably, typically cooked whole or in slices, its true potential has yet to be realized by the general public.
It wants to be, no, needs to be, powered.
Think about it. Remained as a whole, or slices, or even finely diced, the mushrooms are only allowed a limited exposure to direct heat and caramelization. But when powdered and browned in hot grease, its exponentially multiplied surface areas darken and deepen boundlessly, releasing every molecules of that shroominess that would otherwise cost you a limb. As a supporting role, usually a couple tablespoons will suffice. But in the case of carrying an entire Italian culinary staple, say risotto, to whole new height, I suggest we go to town.
Almost 1/2 cup of shiitake mushroom powder will fry slowly in chicken fat, as transformative as the making of a dark roux, until its pale brown complexion takes on the color between cinnamon and dark chocolate, until its faintly woody aroma expands into a pungency that is almost spicy and sweet. All this magic is then extracted by the chicken broth, and delivered into every single grains of arborio rice in a silky, totally un-grainy finish. Although you may deem the appearance of fish sauce and soy sauce as out of place, but they only amplify and compliments the shroominess without making an entrance. I urge you not to swap.
So there. Go buy expensive dickheads if you want to be like that. But me? I’m sticking with this.
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- 6 dried shiitake mushroom (see note)
- 6 tbsp schmaltz/chicken fat, or pork fat, or any other fat you can collect from roasting meats
- 3 small or 2 large shallots, finely minced
- 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- 2 cloves of garlics, grated
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 cup arborio rice
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth, plus more if needed
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 2 tsp fish sauce, plus more to adjust
- 1 tsp extra dark soy sauce, plus more to adjust
- 1 heaping cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- Extra virgin olive oil to serve
- Depending on the source or condition they have been stored in, dried shiitake mushrooms can vary from being very dry and brittle to slightly stale. In order to make them as brittle as possible for grinding and also for freshness, store them in the freezer in an unzipped bag. The freezer will pull any excess moisture away and make grinding a lot easier. Once they have been frozen for a day, break the mushroom into smaller pieces with your hands, then grind them in the spice-grinder until finely powdered. You'll need 7 tbsp for this recipe. Store the rest in an air-tight jar until next time.
- In a large pot over medium heat, whisk together schmaltz/chicken fat and 7 tbsp of shiitake mushroom powder. Stirring constantly and cook until the mixture has turned from a light caramel color to a deep chocolate brown, about 2~3 minutes. Add minced shallots and sea salt, and cook until softened, then add grated garlic, fresh thyme, ground white and black pepper, and cook until fragrant.
- Add the arborio rice, stir and cook for a couple more minutes, then add 2 cups of low-sodium chicken broth, bay leaves, fish sauce and extra dark soy sauce. Keep the mixture at a simmer, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. Then add 1 more cup of chicken broth, and when that is absorbed as well, add 1/2 cup more. You'll need more or less 4 cups of chicken broth in total until the rice is al dente, with a slight bite in the center of the grain. Remember that you can always add more broth but you can't take away, so don't add too much at a time especially at the end.
- Once the rice reaches ideal texture, add grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, unsalted butter and Dijon mustard. Whip and stir the risotto rigorously with a wooden spoon until creamy, even and silky. Re-season with more sea salt if needed.
- Serve immediately with more grated cheese and drizzles of extra virgin olive oil.
Dried shiitake mushrooms are basically the most standard dried mushrooms you'll find in any Asian groceries or Chinatown. They are widely common and available, and generally very affordable compared to other types of dried mushrooms, yet robust in flavor.
Adriana GutierrezOctober 19, 2018 at 10:19 PM
Such disrespect for wild mushrooms. If ypu have ever rapelled off the side of a cliff in pursuit of a treasured bunch of chanterelles, waded into swamps and briars in search of morels you would not curse the beloved wild fungi!
For those of us wo would love to substitute other varieties, can you tell us the weight of the shiitakes?
mandy@ladyandpupsOctober 19, 2018 at 10:28 PM
Adriana, hahaaaa I don’t hate wild mushrooms, they hate me lol! 1/4 cup of shiitake mushroom powder weighs about 10 grams.
MamaHanOctober 20, 2018 at 12:49 AM
Mandy, when you buy your shiitakes, do you look for ones with smooth caps or those with lots of cracks and creases? Do you find one type more flavorful than another?
Usually I soak mine in water and then cut the stems off after they’ve softened. When you are breaking apart your mushrooms post-freezer, do you try to snap off the stems, too, or do they also jump into the chicken fat swimming pool with everyone else?
Your risotto looks amazing, can’t wait to try it out! :)
mandy@ladyandpupsOctober 20, 2018 at 2:03 AM
Mamahan, I believe that the shiitake with cracks and creases (huagu) are more expensive correct? I generally just use the smooth caps and even think that they are more flavorful than the other type. The stems have great flavors, too, but are usually removed because they are tough. But in this application, that doesn’t matter, so I grind them whole and use the whole thing :)
MamaHanOctober 20, 2018 at 2:23 AM
Cool, I usually look for the smooth ones, too. :) Wow, glad to hear you use the stems in this recipe. You are relentlessly RESOURCEFUL!
Thanks for your super speedy reply, and hope you have a wonderful weekend!
RemikoOctober 20, 2018 at 1:59 AM
Your creativeness is just beyond!!!!
I kinda wish they would do a Mind of Chef of you.
Super creative, love love love where you are going with this.
gfyOctober 20, 2018 at 1:43 PM
Well I second that, re: MoC!
CTLongmontOctober 20, 2018 at 3:50 AM
My only concern is most dried mushrooms I use are not fully clean. Mostly used in Italian food and a base for BBQ sauces, rubs and finishing. My experience is that unless you wash them thoroughly, there is a certain amount of grit that is very unpleasant. Do you wash these before freezing?
Ann ROctober 20, 2018 at 6:39 AM
Great idea, I’ve used ground up shitakes as filler in meatloaf adds that umami umpha.
gfyOctober 20, 2018 at 1:41 PM
I know this works because for years, my mother has stored powdered shitake’s (that she, a polish/german, shops for at Hmart : ) in a glass canister in the pantry that she uses to make killer vegetarian broth with. I adopted it after visiting and now have a glass canister of my own that I use to make ‘instant’ mugs of warming broth instead of tea in the winter. Two tbls shitake powder, by itself if I’m feeling lazy or else also add: 1/2 a clove of grated garlic, a nub of ginger/grated, a spoonful of miso and hot water.
Can’t wait to try this risotto!
Millie20October 20, 2018 at 9:58 PM
I made the risotto last night for unexpected guests and it was a big success. Together with a mixed salade everybody was happy.!
Thank you Millie20.
Francois de MelogueOctober 20, 2018 at 10:20 PM
I read your post and almost started crying for how deprived of wild mushrooms you seem to be. They are so absolutely easy to forage for but in case that is too much – chanterelles are not much more than white buttons at stores like Costco. If you were in the States I would send you a free box to help alleviate your plight. I am feeling guilty because in my companies warehouse in the Pacific Northwest we have 80,000 pounds or so of chanterelles waiting for a delicious risotto to fall into.
mandy@ladyandpupsOctober 21, 2018 at 12:53 PM
Francois, hahaahaha in Hong Kong foraging is a fairytale :)
Francois de MelogueOctober 20, 2018 at 10:21 PM
p.s. I have been a long time fan of your blog – keep up the great photos and writing.
Fellow Hong KongerOctober 21, 2018 at 8:13 PM
I just made a vegetarian version of this and it was delicious! Thank you for the recipe. Am so glad I stumbled upon this today! Am a huge fan of your blog. :)
Abbe@This is How I CookOctober 23, 2018 at 1:40 AM
The grinder is out. Enough said.
mayaOctober 24, 2018 at 12:05 AM
ever since i read that david chang grinds up his dried shrooms to save pantry room, i’ve been meaning to try it. and now i am totally stealing this idea to make a base for jap curry. i love your writing in general, but the third paragraph here nearly killed me. it really spoke to my heart. i wish we could go dumpster diving together! sorry if it sounds creepy, kthnxbye!
showbox apkOctober 24, 2018 at 3:41 PM
Dried shiitake mushroom is cheap and common
Atara KelmanJanuary 3, 2019 at 3:09 PM
Hey Mandy! Can you recommend a veggie or dairy substitute for the chicken fat? Also, any other way to break up the mushrooms without a spice grinder? Mortar and pestle?
mandy@ladyandpupsJanuary 3, 2019 at 11:46 PM
Atara, you can use olive oil instead. The powder needs an electric spic grinder though. Mortar and pestle May yield a coarse grind but give it a try.
Sharon RauschMay 30, 2019 at 11:26 PM
I learn so much from you as well! Thank you so much for sharing your helpful information. Keep it up.
Barb UeharaFebruary 22, 2023 at 2:47 PM
I adore shitakes! Dried and powdered. I add the powder to fried rice, meatloaf, meatballs (especially ground turkey or chicken), soups, risottos, sourdough breads or whatever else I whimsically decide! The umami it adds is unparalleled!