The importance of umami as the ‘fifth basic taste’ (after salty, sweet, bitter, and sour) may be a food writing cliche, but it’s hard to overemphasize the role shiitake mushrooms can play in creating a savory undertone for many dishes, even those outside traditional East Asian cuisine.
As a fresh mushroom, shiitakes also shine when they are marinated and grilled. They pair wonderfully with a combination of soy sauce, citrus, ginger, and garlic. Log grown shiitakes can make portobello mushrooms seem petite and almost always put their indoor cultivated relatives to shame in regards to flavor. Larger sized shiitake hold up well on a charcoal grill tamped down to cook long and slowly, while petite or ‘no-trim’ sized shiitakes make for a quick and easy sauté as their stems remain tender after cooking.
Any left over shiitakes may be dried and stored in a canning jar. Dried shiitakes in broth or soup stock can add depth and even replace stock bones for people adverse to animal protein, though it should be noted that the use for dried shiitakes doesn’t end with soup. Dried shiitakes reconstitute well. Replacing the dehydrated moisture with heated tamari or rice vinegar make for delicious quick pickles. If you are cooking the tender caps, be sure to save the stems: dry them in a dehydrator or oven on low temperature and pulse them in a spice grinder, add salt and basic seasonings and you’ll have a wonderful rub for grilled meats or vegetables.