Ounce for ounce, dried mushrooms pack more flavor than fresh. Drying mushrooms concentrates their umami content, which elevates their earthy, slightly smoky flavors and makes them a pantry-friendly favorite to boost the savoriness of stews, risotto, braises, and sauces.
The most common way to prep dried mushrooms is to reconstitute them in hot water. But for our Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup, we found the best way to incorporate them was to forgo the soaking step. Instead, we pulled out our spice grinder and made mushroom powder.
Earthy shiitake mushrooms are one of the most potent sources of umami, particularly in their dried form. Just ¼ ounce, pulverized in a spice grinder or blender, took the soup to a whole new level. It infused it with full-bodied mushroom flavor without adding too much bulk. (We also included cremini mushrooms, which provided the soup with a meaty texture.)
There’s a scientific explanation for dried mushrooms’ umami punch. Dried mushrooms are rich in a nucleotide called inosinate. When foods rich in inosinate are paired with glutamate-rich ingredients such as tomato paste and soy sauce (both of which are used in this soup recipe), the perception of umami is dramatically amplified. So dried mushrooms are savory on their own, but their flavor gets super-boosted from the rest of the ingredient list.
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In addition to the flavor boost they provide, there are a couple other advantages to using shiitake mushrooms. For one, they’re about half the price of some other dried mushrooms, such as porcini. They also don’t need to be rinsed or cleaned before pulverizing. Because commercially produced shiitake mushrooms are grown in controlled conditions, they tend to emerge from packaging fairly clean and debris-free.
Until now, I’d never made wild rice and mushroom soup, and I’m so glad I did. This soup is hearty, rich, easy to assemble, and so incredibly savory. If you’re a fan of mushrooms, I highly recommend you give it a try. Team ground mushrooms all the way!