(Scientific Name: Lentinula edodes
) An Asian mushroom with a pale brown to dark reddish brown cap that is generally two to four inches wide. The young mushrooms have an edge rolled inward, which nearly flattens out with age. The stems are tough and fibrous and are generally detached and discarded. The cap has creamy white gills on its underside and its flesh is firm and white. The mushroom grows in clusters on hardwood, such as oak, chestnut and beech. The flesh is meaty textured with a rich, smoky flavor and goes well with all foods. The shiitake can be sautéed, baked or broiled and can be used in soups, casseroles, sauces, in stuffing for poultry or fish and eaten on their own.
Shiitake mushrooms are available fresh and dried. Select those that are firm and plump and avoid any that are shriveled, dry, slimy or bruised. The mushrooms should be stored without cleaning, loosely wrapped in their original container, or in paper towels or in a paper bag in the refrigerator at 34ºF to 38ºF where they can be kept for up to 14 days. Do not store in plastic, which only serves to increase exposure to humidity. When ready to use, clean by removing grit with a damp paper towel or gently scrub with a soft brush. If you must use water, keep to a minimum and then pat dry with a paper towel. Shiitake mushrooms are also known as Japanese black mushrooms.