I was so excited to ask about gravy yesterday that I forgot to share my own secret advice. It’s a wicked secret and while I don’t use it every time it will pull any gravy out from the grasp of defeat and turn it towards something that is wonderous. It’s a little trick that also works with pasta sauce, soup and stock. It’s the kind of thing you do when no one is looking.
I have a magic jar filled with white powder. It’s a medium-sized mason jar which sits unlabeled and unknown to most. You could easily mistake it for rough flour but that would be a bad mistake to make. Adding this powder to any liquid will add density and wonderful flavor – and it’s virtually foolproof (you can’t use too much).
What is this wonderful substance? Shiitake mushrooms.
I will eventually dehydrate my own but I started with a bag of the commercial product. Hard and lifeless mushrooms that looked like they were spared from the tomb of King Tut. I was fairly certain that the powder would work out well but wanted to be certain and I`m shocked to find that an entire bag has lasted me almost a year in it`s powdered form. The powder adds thickness to any sauce – as well as plenty of flavor. I generally find people can`t figure out I`ve added mushrooms and there is no visible trace of them whatsoever – but the depth of flavor is clearly pronounced in anything these are added to.
Mushrooms are 90% water. Preparation is the same as cooking them – don`t wash in water, choose fresh ones (you shouldn`t be able to see the gills under the mushroom itself), wipe clear with a brush. You can slice them or dehydrate them whole – I prefer the labor savings of doing whole vegetables though it adds time to the process.
Start mushrooms at 85 degrees farenheit (about 30 celsius) for 2.5-3 hours before raising the temp to 120 (about 50 degrees) until they are dry. They should be brittle when complete. Do note that they can be very smelly as they dry and, much like hot peppers, that can bother some people.
I use a coffee grinder to grind my powder. Resist doing the entire batch at once. A powder will lose it`s flavor faster than the whole vegetable as the amount of surface area that is exposed to air increases exponentially. Be cautious when opening the grinder not to breathe in the fine powder (avoid this by waiting a few extra seconds before carefully opening the lid of the grinder).
If you find your mushrooms aren`t grinding fine-enough for your standards, throw them in the freezer for about 10 minutes (not much longer) and you`ll find different results follow.
Would love to hear if anyone does anything similar – or tries the same (we also do this with celeriac, onions and carrots amongst other powders and can flavor a tonne of things with them).