In Vegetarian Offal I examine the scraps and cut-offs that might otherwise be thrown away. Offal isn’t just for meat-eaters anymore! Today’s offal: shiitake mushroom stems.
I love all mushrooms, other than dried and reconstituted ones, but if I had to pick one as a favorite it would probably be shiitakes. They have great flavor and great texture, and they can be used so many different ways. Traditionally, though, the stems are cut off and discarded. There’s no reason to do that, though. You do have to trim off the very bottom of the stem, because mushrooms are grown in dirt and filth after all. But if you chop the stem and and fry the pieces in olive oil and season with salt and pepper, along with the rest of the shiitake, you get wonderfully crisp and chewy little bits of flavor. I remember an episode of either “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” or “Bizarre Foods” where either Tony or Andrew eats a sandwich made of unknown organ meats and other scraps that had been fried until crisp and chewy. This is the same idea, only with mushrooms.
I have also used shiitake stems to make a wonderful mushroom consomme — gently simmer the trimmed stems in water with some onions and carrots. I haven’t found any other uses for them yet; I tried grilling them once but they came out pretty bad. After the jumo, find a simple recipe for tofu “steaks” with sauteed chicory and shiitake.
Take a brick of extra firm tofu and slice it down the middle so you have two steaks. Use a paper towel to press the moisture out of both of them, then season with salt and pepper. Heat some olive oil in a non-stick pan, and when the oil is nice and hot lay the steaks down in the pan. Let them cook on that one side for a good long while, until it gets really brown. Then turn them over to the other side, and move them to one side of the pan to let them finish cooking. Add a little more olive oil to the pan, and toss in some sliced shiitakes (along with their stems) into the side of the pan next to the tofu. Season with salt and pepper and let them brown. Once the tofu has browned on the other side remove it from the pan and spread the mushrooms out. You’ll probably have to move them around so they brown evenly. Make a little space in the center of the pan, and add a little more olive oil. Add some washed, chopped chicory (or other leafy green) and season with salt, pepper, and some chili flakes. Mix the chicory and the mushrooms, check for seasoning, and add the juice of a lemon. Let it all cook together for a few minutes, and then add some butter to make a sauce in the pan. Serve the greens and mushrooms alongside the tofu, and pour the lemon-butter sauce over the tofu.