Ultra Umami Shiitake 'Shrooms


Fifteen Minutes; Serves Two

By now, most of us are familiar with umami, the elusive “fifth taste” most famously associated with red meat. Pure savory richness. But what, exactly, are you tasting? For the most part, the amino acid, glutamate. This might sound familiar from the temperamental but generally irresistible additive, monosodium glutamate (better known as MSG). And yes, so glad you asked: there are glutamates in foods besides meats and MSG. 

Good things come in threes.

Less is more.

Simplicity begets splendor.

Mushrooms, butter, soy.

Shiitake mushrooms, butter, and soy sauce each contain prized glutamates. Together, they sing a savory tune of toothsome triumph. Also, a true three-ingredient recipe--what could be better?

The Goods:

1 pint shiitake mushrooms

2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into quarters (or extra virgin olive oil)

2 tsp soy sauce (or tamari)

The Process:

Don’t wash your mushrooms in water! Instead, and only if necessary, brush off any visible dirt with a dry paper towel or mushroom brush. 

Start heating a skillet on medium-high heat. 

Meanwhile, twist off the shiitake stems and tear them into medium-sized pieces (save the stems for stock, if you’re into that kind of thing). 

Drop the butter into the pan and swirl. Once it has melted and before it browns, add the mushrooms.

Stir the shiitakes to coat them in butter. Then, spread them out. If your pan is producing a lot of smoke, turn down the heat until it’s only barely smoking.

Let them sear for a few minutes, until the mushrooms’ pan-sides are golden-brown.

Give them a vigorous stir, a re-spread, and another few undisturbed minutes to caramelize. Repeat (if necessary) until the shiitakes are delightfully browned, all over. Then, cut the heat.

Let the pan cool a hair (duration largely depends on the pan), pour the soy sauce into the pan, baste, et voilà! Taste and adjust salt as necessary (a finishing salt adds great texture).


* If using salted butter, cut down the soy sauce to around one teaspoons, depending on the butter and depending on the soy sauce. It is also worth noting that different soy sauces have different sodium contents. Follow your palate.

* As always, let this recipe be a template for your kitchen adventures. Finishing with fresh herbs is lovely. Sautéing some garlic or shallots at the start adds delicious aroma.

* As always, and especially when dealing with minimalist recipes, quality ingredients are key. In this case, using excellent butter and soy sauce elevates from yummy to ethereal.


Geoffrey Van