“Shii” in Japanese relates to the tree species on which the mushrooms naturally grow in East Asia. “Take” means “mushroom.” In the United States, shiitakes are either cultivated in temperature-controlled, sterile environments on sawdust blocks or outdoors on logs. Forest-grown shiitakes, which are more expensive, vary in size, taste and moisture.
What to Buy
Turn the mushroom cap over and look for gills that are cream in color and haven’t folded in on themselves. Sometimes, gills are spotted. That doesn’t mean they are bad, just older.
How to Prepare
India Cox of Casselmonte Farm advises against adding more moisture to the mushrooms through rinsing or soaking. They use an air compressor to blow any debris from their mushrooms before bringing them to market. Because of their meatiness, shiitakes are best used whole or sliced for grilling and sautéing. Their woody stems can be frozen and placed in a vegetable stock.
Poached Salmon with Shiitake Cream Sauce
From Bill Cox of Casselmonte Farm
(adapted from a Bon Appétit May 2012 recipe)
2 6- to 8-ounce salmon fillets (each about 1 inch thick)
1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons kosher salt plus more for seasoning
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
6 to 8 ounces stemmed, forest-grown shiitakes
½ cup heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh chives for garnish
Place salmon, skin side down, in a large high-sided skillet. Add wine, 2 tablespoons salt, and cold water to cover salmon by ½ inch. Cover pan; bring liquid to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, uncover, and gently poach fish until just cooked through and barely opaque in the center, about 6 minutes, depending on thickness. Transfer salmon and 2 tablespoons poaching liquid to a plate; tent loosely with foil. Reserve ½ cup liquid.
Meanwhile, melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add ½ cup poaching liquid and simmer until liquid is reduced. Add cream and bring sauce to a simmer. Cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Using a spatula, transfer salmon, skin side up, to paper towels. Gently peel off and then discard skin. Invert onto serving plate and spoon sauce over. Garnish with fresh chives.