We have home-grown shiitake mushrooms! They are amazing and delicious, and they just keep coming! And you can grow them indoors, even on the kitchen countertop where you can admire their rapid growth and pluck them straight into your cooking pot.
It couldn’t have been easier to grow them, either. I got a shiitake fruiting block from Mushroom Mountain, the source of good quality mushroom spawn and mushroom growing supplies here in South Carolina. The process is super simple: submerge the entire block in water for a few hours, put it on a plate and cover with a humidity tent, and keep misting it twice a day. Within a couple of days, eager brown knobs start to push out of the block, and in just one more day, you have your first generous harvest of full-fledged, fresh, velvety shiitake.
We have been both cooking with the shiitake and drying them for later use. A good excuse to pull out all my best recipes with shiitake — and to discover, or invent, others. The first shiitake harvest inspired me to try to recreate the dish that knocked my socks off at the Laughing Seed Cafe in Asheville last weekend: a shiitake pot pie with a mashed potato “crust” — an autumn comfort food if I ever saw one. I’m usually not good at inventing recipes, but I declare this one a success, and include the recipe below. The flourless “crust” is made with mashed potatoes and turnips. The filling is adapted from a corn and mushroom ragout recipe in Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.
Even as the first harvest is exhausted, the fun is not over. You can let the block rest for two weeks and then start the process all over again, for up to four times. So there will be more to come.
Some of my favorite resources for growing — and eating! — shiitake:
- Milkwood‘s mushroom growing resources
- Fungi Perfecti
- Paul Stamets’ Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms
- Witchin’ in the Kitchen on the healing properties of shiitake and a shiitake noodle broth recipe
Mashed potato “crust”:
- 1 lb Yukon or Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
- 1 lb turnips or other root vegetable
- 3 tbsp salted butter
- 2/3 cup milk
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 onion, sliced
- 10 garlic cloves: 2 peeled, 8 unpeeled
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 large bell pepper, roasted
- a handful of cherry tomatoes
- 3 cups of corn kernels, fresh or frozen and thawed
- 6 oz shiitake mushrooms
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 8 sage leaves, chopped
- 1 tbsp parsley, chopped
Prepare the mashed potatoes: add potatoes into boiling water with 1 tsp of salt. Cook until tender, about 15-20 minutes. While they are boiling, melt butter in a small saucepan, add milk, and bring almost to boiling. Drain the potatoes and mash them together with the milk-butter mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Heat up 2 cups of water along with the sliced onion, the peeled garlic, shiitake stems, and 1/2 tsp salt, and simmer for 25 minutes. Heat a bit of oil on a skillet over medium heat, add the unpeeled garlic and cooked until the garlic skins are crispy and charred, and the insides soft. Peel and mash with a fork. Sear the tomatoes in the same pan, mush with the back of a wooden spoon. Add the tomatoes into the stock.
Heat oven to 375 F. Heat 1 1/2 tbsp oil in a wide skillet over high heat. Add mushroom and saute for 4-5 minutes. Set aside. Return the same pan to heat and add another tbsp of oil. Then add the diced onion, mashed roasted garlic, corn, and the sage leaves, and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and pepper. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Finally, strain the stock into the pan and simmer for 5 minutes.
Assemble the pot pie: spread half of the mashed potatoes on the bottom of a cast iron pan or a pie pan, then pour the filling on top of it, and finally top the filling with the remaining half of mashed potatoes. Brush with a beaten egg if you wish. Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until the top is golden in color. Let cool for a few minutes before serving.