Still throwing away mushroom soaking liquid after refreshing dried mushrooms? Stop right there. There’s tons of umami flavour that’s lost the second you pour that dark liqueur down the drain- you basically lose what could have elevated your shroom dish to star status on the table.
Dried mushrooms can be found in almost every market nowadays- you have shiitake, oyster and sometimes even dried button mushrooms available at specialty grocers. How you soak it though is really a matter of choice. The best method involves room temperature water and an overnight soak. This slowly rehydrates the mushrooms as opposed to the quick rehydrating which happens with hot water. When you pour hot water into the dry mushrooms, it draws out a lot more of the mushroom’s flavour into the water. So if you were to make a dashi of mushrooms, refreshing them this way would be a good way to start. Refreshing them in warm water requires less soaking time and so while oyster would refresh in about ten minutes tops, a thick-skinned shiitake could take up till 30 minutes, and sometimes even more.
After the mushrooms are out of the soaking liquid, rinse them under cold water. No, you won’t lose out on any more flavour this way, it’s all safe in the stock. Straining the stock is important too, because there are impurities in the liquid, so a regular chai strainer comes in handy. Freeze this stock and use it whenever you need. I’ve applied the above technique to two absolutely stunning pasta recipes that anyone who appreciates umami will come to love. One is a mixed mushrooms rigatoni with zesty breadcrumbs for texture, while the other is a Mushroom lasagne, that staggering pile of sheets, sauce, mushrooms and cheese that’s always appreciated at a potluck.
Note: Feel free to play around with the mushrooms available to you. If you don’t have a certain kind of mushroom, just sub it with another. I find that using a variety of mixed mushrooms leads to a better tasting stock, and the proof of this is in the pasta dish where it’s tossed in right at the end to add a final layer of shroomey flavour to the dish.
Mixed Mushroom Rigatoni With Lemony Breadcrumbs
Instead of using reserved pasta water, we use the mushroom soaking liquid in this pasta recipe. Using a mix of porcini, shiitake and oyster gives this pasta a more complex mushroom flavour.
Dried porcini mushrooms 15g
Dried shiitake mushrooms 15g
Dried oyster mushrooms 15g
Tarragon 6 sprigs
Oil 1 tbsp
Lemon zest 1 tsp
Garlic 2-3 cloves
Butter 2 tbsp
Salt and Pepper
Before you begin, you must soak the mushrooms. Take 250ml of hot water and divide it. Soak the shiitake mushrooms for at least half an hour in the hot water, whereas you can soak the other two dried mushrooms for ten minutes. Mix the soaking liquid together and set it aside. Chop the mushrooms.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan and add to it the breadcrumbs and the teaspoon of lemon zest. Toast it over a low heat for five minutes till the crumbs are crisp. Set it aside.
Bring a stockpot full of water to a boil and generously salt it. Proceed to cook the rigatoni as per the packet instructions or until al dente. Drain and reserve a bit of the pasta soaking liquid. You may not need to use this, but just in case the pasta dries out or you need to reheat it, it's best to keep it handy.
In a shallow but fairly large frying pan, heat the butter over medium heat. Add to this the garlic and the tarragon and let it sizzle for a minute before tipping in the drained mushrooms. Saute the mushrooms for a minute in the garlic and tarragon before adding in the rigatoni and the mushroom soaking liquid. Season the mixture.
Working quickly, turn the heat to high, and toss the pasta in the liquid so that the water evaporates quickly. Take it off the heat when there's little to no liquid left in the pan and add in the breadcrumbs and parmesan immediately. Serve.
Mixed Mushroom and Oregano Lasagna
This lasagna is way better than anything your friends will be bringing for your next potluck. A three mushroom mixture with oregano, layered with parmesan and creamy bechamel sounds like a lot of work, and I won't lie to you- it is, but it is also the most delicious piece of work you're going to bust your ass for.
Lasagna sheets 20, fresh if possible from specialty grocery stores or dried (Barilla is a good brand. If using dried, pre-cook for 5 minutes in boiling water, then grease), lightly greased
Button mushrooms 600g (approximately three packets), stems trimmed and washed
Vegetable Oil 3 tbsp
Butter 4 tbsp, divided
Onion 1 large, chopped fine
Garlic 2-3 cloves, finely chopped
Dried oyster mushroom 15g, pre-soaked and water reserved in 1 cup warm water
Dried shiitake mushroom 15g, pre-soaked and water reserved in 1 cup warm water
Tomatoes 2 large, chopped
Ketchup 1 tbsp
Oregano 2 tbsp
Parmesan cheese 70g, plus extra for serving
For The Bechamel Sauce
Milk 2 cups
Butter 4 tbsp
Flour 3 tbsp
Salt 1/2 tsp
Cinnamon 1/2 tsp
Nutmeg 1/2 tsp freshly grated
Pepper 1/2 tsp
Chop the washed button mushrooms and chop them thinly, keeping the stems on. Choose a large pan that can accommodate all the mushrooms and add in 3 out of 4 tbsp of butter, oil, the garlic and onions and over a medium heat, cook till the onions are translucent.
Next up, chop the rehydrated dried mushrooms and toss it into the pan with the reserved mushroom water. Add in the tomatoes, ketchup and oregano and turn the heat down to medium-low, put a lid on and leave the tomatoes to cook and the water to slowly evaporate.
When the mixture seems fairly dry with just a bit of moisture, tip in the fresh mushrooms, some salt and pepper and increase the heat to high. Cook the fresh mushroom mixture uncovered until all the liquid released by the button mushrooms has evaporated. Taste for salt and take it off the heat.
Start on the béchamel sauce. Heat the milk with the bayleaf over medium-low. In another saucepan, add the butter and turn the heat down to low. Let the butter melt completely before adding in the flour. Stir this roux with a wooden spoon till it smells nutty but there’s no colour on the roux. Remove this from the heat and in a slow, steady streams dd in the milk with your left hand, while stirring with your right.
Bring the mixture back to low heat and stir occasionally till the mixture has reached desired thickness- i like my béchamel quite thick. If there are any lumps forming, Runa. whisk through the mixture. Add in the cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, black pepper and take it off the heat. If a thin layer forms on top, you can just stir it later, so don’t worry.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.
Add in 2/3rd of the béchamel sauce to the mushroom mixture and stir. Smear some béchamel at the bottom of a well-greased glass lasagne pan and lay out the first layer of lasagna sheets, mix and matching them, so there’s not more than 1/4 inch overlap. This way, you don’t feel like you’re eating more pasta and less filling. Ladle on 1/3rd of the mushroom mixture evenly and top with 1/3rd of the grated parmesan cheese.
Continue with a layer of the lasagna sheets, then the mushrooms and cheese. For your final layer, compact the lasagne with a layer of sheets and pour over the remaining béchamel. Dot the top of the lasagna with small blobs of butter and either refrigerate the lasagne at this stage or transfer to the oven where you can let it bake for up till 15 minutes or till a nice golden crust has formed on top.
Let it stand for ten minutes after you’ve brought it out of the oven, then cut into squares and serve.