I love mushrooms. LOVE. And my favorite kind is probably shiitake mushrooms. They have so much depth of flavor, and are so versitile. And though I always grew up eating them in only Japanese dishes, I love how they work in other genres.
There's a guy I go to every week at our local farmers market who grows shiitakes in tree trunks that he's predrilled. He leaves one tree trunk out for display, and the very last customer of the day gets the ones he picks from the display trunk--the freshest mushrooms of the day. It's beautiful and fascinating. And he sells out every Saturday by 10 am. So the mornings I'm running late, I've been pretty close to not getting what I want. But one time I got lucky and got a 1/2 lb from his display.
I've used these mushrooms for all sorts of dishes, but I think my favorite is to show off their earthy flavor in a creamy mushroom pasta. This sauce goes well with long or short pastas, but for some reason I think rigatoni works best.
It's so easy to alter this recipe. Sometimes I add baby spinach right at the end so it barely wilts, sometimes I add fresh basil, but my favorite sprinkle of green comes from the grassy, bright flavor of minced flat leaf parsley. But experiment and decide for yourself what you like.
pâtes à la crème et aux champignons or "pasta with cream and mushrooms" (just wanted to sound fancy with the French)
1/2 lb fresh shiitake mushrooms, scrubbed clean, stems removed, and caps sliced 1/4 inch thick 1 tablespoon butter 1/2 cup heavy cream 1/4~1/2 cup combination of parmiggiano reggiano and gruyere cheeses, grated 1 tablespoon fresh flat leaf parsley, minced salt and pepper to taste 1 lb pasta
In a large saute pan, melt 1/2 tablespoon of the butter. Add enough mushrooms to just cover the bottom of the pan without overlapping. Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper and brown the mushrooms. Toss to saute both sides of the mushrooms and set aside. Repeat with remaining butter and mushrooms.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season the water with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt and cook pasta to al dente, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water.
Once the mushrooms are cooked, add all of them back to pan. Add cream and cheeses, and stir gently until cheese is completely melted.
Add pasta and parsley and toss to coat. Add pasta water a little bit at a time to loosen the sauce if necessary. Serve immediately.