Ironically, some of the best inventions are created from the worst mistakes. In any industry this is true, but this is often NOT the case in the culinary world, where the words "burned", "charred", "overcooked", and "way too well done" seem to plague any chef trying to make something good out of something that went terribly bad.
Or, in one fantastic case, I gained the opportunity to create sometime sublimely delicious out of what could have been one of the biggest catering "mistakes" of my career. All involving one of my favorite ingredients: the shiitake mushroom.
With lack of stove top space left in the tight-spaced kitchen and pounds of mushrooms to sauté for service as a garnish for filet mignon, I figured I had to "improvize". Knowing my ovens weren't being used at the moment, I decided to toss all of the mushrooms with olive oil, salt and pepper, get them onto sheet pans, throw them in a 400*F oven, and "sauté", or "roast" them until they began to slightly caramelize.
But, being sidetracked with other catering issues (and forgetting to set my timer), I absentmindedly forgot about checking on the 10 pounds of mushrooms now wasting away in the oven's inferno. About 30 minutes after succumbing my funghi to the perils of the oven, I thought I was doomed. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, opened the oven doors.
Instead of finding ashen remnants of what "were" mushrooms, I found shrunken, perfectly browned and slightly crisp slivers of shiitakes. I took the sheet pans out, drained the mushrooms on paper towels (which allowed them to cool and crisp up even more), took a bite, and this deep, earthy, and salty flavor flooded my taste buds. This was something unlike anything I had ever tasted before, and with each sampling, these mushrooms were becoming slightly addicting.
My clients and their guests raved about the meal, but most importantly they all wanted to know, "what were those crunchy, yummy things on top of the filet?" With conviction that it was my "plan" all along to make these shiitakes, I told the guests what they were and explained how I made them, to which my client asked if I could leave all of the leftover shiitakes behind as she wanted to use them as a salad topping the next day.
And, with a diverted mistake, my famous crispy shiitakes were created.
Garnish a salad, soup, meat, pasta dish, or simply enjoy these crunchy little devils on their own. I promise, if you are a mushroom fan, you too will become slightly addicted.
- fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, and thinly sliced (see below)
- extra virgin olive oil
- sea salt
Preheat oven to 350*F. Stem and slice the shiitake mushrooms.
The thinner you slice the mushrooms, the quicker and more evenly they will cook and the crispier they will turn out. I slice mine about 1/4" thick.
Toss shiitakes on cookie sheet and coat heavily with olive oil.
Here's the trick: you want to use more olive oil than you think. The mushrooms will soak up the oil at this stage, but they will release it during the cooking process. If you don't have enough oil on the mushrooms, they will dry out and burn, so make sure to add enough olive oil. Heavily season with salt.
Pop the sheet pan in the oven, and wait about 20-30 minutes (may be longer or shorter depending on how much you are cooking), and watch the shiitakes shrink, brown, and crisp (see in this picture how the olive oil is released).
Drain on paper towels and allow to cool, unless you can't contain yourself, like me, and start snacking on them immediately.
Earthy, crunchy, salty, yummy. These shiitakes are so versatile and always good to have on hand. Store in a plastic bag or container with a paper towel (to soak up any moisture) - these mushrooms will last up to a week stored in fridge or room temperature. If they get a little soggy, just throw back on a cookie sheet and pop in oven to crisp up.
Cheers and enjoy.