In the bottom of my pantry I have one and a half huge Costco bags of dried shiitake mushrooms. Shiitake, native to Korea, China and Japan, have been grown in all three countries since prehistoric times. They have been cultivated for over 1,000 years. They were believed to be medicinal, a remedy for upper respiratory diseases, poor blood circulation, liver trouble, exhaustion and weakness. Dried shiitake must be rehydrated by soaking in water before using. Many people prefer dried shiitake to fresh, considering that the sun-drying process brings out the umami flavor from the dried mushrooms.
History aside, I find shiitake mushrooms to be quite versatile, throwing a handful into various dishes to increase their “meatiness” without increasing fat. They have a nice, chewy texture and flavor that adds substance to a dish. But one and a half very big bags is simply too much! I need to reduce their bulk by using a large number at once. And that’s when I discovered recipes on the back of the bags.
Beside switching from beef to buffalo to lower fat, I varied the recipe a bit to match up with things I had in the house. It was too snowy to go out to get new ingredients. So for the new potatoes, I used a pound of cut up regular potatoes, and for the recommended canned whole tomatoes I used diced, because that is what I had in the pantry.
This recipe is super easy – everything goes in the slow cooker and then you come home to a great dinner.
The flour in the recipe means you have a good, thick gravy at the end. It also reheated well, with a little water added, so it made good leftovers the next day. It was a perfect winter dish when the temperatures were hovering in the 20’s and I wanted something warm and filling.
Slow-Cooker Shiitake-Buffalo Stew
3 cups dried, sliced shiitake mushrooms
12 new potatoes cut into quarters, or 1 lb. regular potatoes cut in 2 inch chunks
½ cup coarsely chopped onion
8 oz baby carrots
14½ oz can chopped tomatoes, undrained
14½ oz can beef broth
½ cup flour
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 lb buffalo, cut in 2 inch cubes (I used buffalo chuck roast, but any roast would do)
In a medium bowl, cover the shiitake mushroom with water and soak for at least 15 minutes. Drain shiitake mushrooms. Combine mushrooms and all ingredients except buffalo in a slow-cooker. Stir a bit to mix the flour in. Add buffalo.
Cover and cook on low for 8 hours (mine slow-cooker runs hot, so 7 hours was enough). Makes 4 hearty servings at about 2.5 grams of fat/serving.