Regular Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones drops by to offer a delicious DIY snack – crispy shiitake mushrooms! I wish I had a batch to nibble right now! -Marisa
I consider myself incredibly lucky to work alongside sustainable farmers and food producers here in southeast Pennsylvania. This community has changed my life for the better in more ways than one: it’s given me work, purpose, inspiration, and an education around food and agriculture.
And, of course, there’s the ability to share in the bounty that comes along with running a CSA or working a farmers’ market.
I’ve written about my friends at Primordia Farm before — they’re a first-generation clan of mushroom farmers and foragers, growing beautiful fungi high on Hawk Mountain in Berks County, right near the Appalachian Trail. And with them as my farmers’ market neighbors, I’m lucky to have access to delicious, immaculately grown mushrooms year-round.
While there are a million recipes you can make with the mushrooms they grow — shiitake, maitake (also known as hen of the woods), royal trumpet, lion’s mane — my favorite preparations tend to be the simplest, making the most of the unique textures and flavors that these fascinating organisms bring to the kitchen.
Sure, you can sautée or roast up a batch of just about any mushroom in butter, olive, or coconut oil and it’ll be tasty. But I’m the only mushroom eater in my household — so if I don’t have a specific dish in mind for my fungi, I tend to turn them into one on of my favorite kinds of food: crunchy, crispy, salty snacks.
While both maitake and royal trumpet mushrooms can achieve a pleasantly crunchy texture when broken into thin fronds (the former) or sliced into planks or rounds (the latter), my favorite ‘shroom to snack-ify is shiitake. They’re easy to trim, and their round shape is somewhat chip-like — and when roasted with olive oil and a big pinch of sea salt, they’re incredibly delicious.
If you can, start with a batch of shiitakes that are consistently sized — or cut larger caps into halves or quarters before roasting so they cook a little more evenly.
The caps will shrink, too. So if you want shiitake snacks large enough to dollop with herbed fromage blanc or a punchy blue cheese spread (for example) for a little party hors d’oeuvre, choose larger mushrooms. If you want to add some bacon bits-esque umami and crunch to a salad, for example, smaller mushrooms are just fine to use.
First, make sure your mushrooms are clean — brush them off if you must, but don’t wash them or get them wet. (Thanks to their growing methods, Primordia’s mushrooms are never dirty.) Next, trim the stems from your shiitakes. You can do this with a paring knife or (my preference) a pair of kitchen shears. Toss the stems into the bag of veggie scraps in your freezer that you save for stock.
Then put your caps into a large bowl with a few big glugs of olive oil, then quickly toss them around to coat — the mushrooms will absorb that oil right away, so add another glug or two and repeat. Toss with a big pinch of salt, then spread the caps, gill-side-up, onto a baking sheet in a single layer.
Bake them at 400 degrees, checking every 10 minutes or so. Your timing will vary depending on the size of your mushrooms and the temperament of your oven — this batch took about 35 minutes in mine, which tends to run cool. Be sure to rotate the pan each time you check; you can also pull out the pan and flip each cap over with tongs — but to be honest, I usually skip this step.
As the mushrooms get closer to doneness, the smaller caps will start to curl and crisp up before the larger ones. The trick is to pull out the pan when the larger pieces are crispy as possible without burning the little guys. (The ones in this photo actually darkened a little more than I would have liked between the time I pulled them out of the oven and took this last shot. They still tasted fine, though.) So be careful not to overdo it.
Once your mushrooms are done, you can toss them with just a little more olive oil and any additional spices — like fresh-ground black pepper, smoked paprika, herbs, or toasted sesame seeds, for example — and let them sit until they’re cool enough to handle (the umami aroma in your kitchen will make it hard to wait this long).
I suppose you could store the crisped mushrooms in a sealed jar on your countertop for a day or two, once they’ve cooled completely.
But to be honest, I’ve never gotten that far — in my house, they get devoured in a matter of minutes.
- 12 ounces shiitake mushrooms
- 4-5 tablespoons of olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Optional: spices or toppings like smoked paprika, black pepper, rubbed thyme, zaatar, or toasted sesame seeds.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Remove any dirt that may be clinging to the caps of your mushrooms, but do not get them wet. Trim off stems and discard or save for veggie stock. Halve or quarter any large caps so that they're more consistent with the majority of the cap sizes.
- Toss the caps in a bowl with a few tablespoons of olive oil. After the first mixing, add a few tablespoons more and toss again. Add a big pinch of kosher salt and toss one more time.
- Lay out the caps in a single layer, gill side up, on a baking sheet. Try not to let the mushrooms touch.
- Bake for 25-40 minutes, checking every 5 minutes starting at the 20 minute mark. Rotate the pan halfway through the baking time; you can also use tongs and flip the caps, gill side down, halfway through cooking. The mushrooms are done when the edges of all the mushrooms are curling in and the smaller ones are crisp.
- When done, remove the mushrooms from the oven, cool, and enjoy. Or, before cooling, toss with one last tablespoon of olive oil and optional additional flavors. Eat immediately.