Baby Shiitake Mushrooms with Ancho Chile Sauce

How many times have you been at a local farmers market and walked smack dab into a mountain of baby shiitake mushrooms? I mean, there they are, incredible in their tininess, and then you realize that you can’t think of a thing to do with them. So you walk away and kick yourself when you get home.

Well, that’s been me too many times to admit. But not last week at the Portland Farmers Market. My mind went blank, as it loves to do at just such moments, but I steeled myself and bought a pound and a half of the little jewels anyway. And all the while MauiJim is hissing at me, “But what are you going to do with them?”

Right, exactly. What am I going to do with them?

Then later that evening, thanks to my alter ego, Pippi Longstocking (who takes over my cerebral cortex anytime she feels like it), I was suddenly propelled to the Chopped competition. I had 1 hour (my show, my rules) to do something fabulous with the mushrooms. Also in my fantasy basket were ancho chiles, cornmeal, fresh corn, and honey. Pippi kept screaming PANCAKES, which turned out to be a good move considering the time limitation.  

MauiJim declared the dish a winner and ate 2 servings before coming up for air. Pippi said it would be better with a souffléd omelet and voted for the heavily tattooed contestant with the yappy monkey.  The deciding vote is all yours.

Shiitake Mushrooms with Ancho Chile Sauce

These spicy, saucy baby shiitakes are wonderful with grilled polenta, grilled chicken, or even cornmeal pancakes as shown above.

3 large dried ancho chiles
2 large cloves garlic, peeled, and roughly chopped
¼ cup ancho chile soaking liquid

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced or pressed
1 cup chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
¼ cup ancho chile puree (from above)
1 tablespoon honey
1½ teaspoons fresh lime juice
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ medium red onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced or pressed
1½ pound baby shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and ends trimmed

Cornmeal Pancakes, optional
Crema, optional
Cilantro Vinaigrette, optional
2 green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal (green portion only)
lime wedges, optional

  1. Prepare the chiles: Put the ancho chiles in a large mixing bowl, and pour 2 cups of boiling water over them to cover. Weight with a plate, soak for at least 20 minutes, and then drain (reserving the liquid in a large measuring cup with a pouring spout). Remove and discard the stem, ribs, and seeds from each chile. You may find it easiest to rinse the flesh to remove the seeds.
  2. Using a small processor or blender, puree the soaked chiles and garlic. Add ¼ cup chile soaking liquid and liquefy. Remove ¼ cup of puree and reserve. Store any remainder for another purpose. (I love having ancho chile puree on hand in the freezer.)
  3. Prepare the sauce: In a medium saute pan, melt 1 tablespoon butter and saute 2 minced cloves garlic until softened but not browned. Add the chicken stock and reduce to a syrup.
  4. Whisk in ¼ cup ancho puree, along with ¼ cup ancho soaking liquid, and cook for 5 minutes, just until the sauce has thickened. Add the honey and lime juice. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat.
  5. Prepare the mushrooms: In a large sauté pan, over medium heat, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and add the onion and remaining 2 cloves garlic. Cook slowly, without browning, until the onions are softened and translucent, about 10 minutes.
  6. Add the mushrooms and cook until just beginning to soften, stirring regularly, about 5 minutes.
  7. Stir in enough of the sauce to liberally coat the mushrooms and adjust salt and pepper as necessary. Store any remaining sauce and use for another purpose.
  8. Serve saucy mushrooms over grilled polenta, cornmeal pancakes, or grilled chicken.
  9. If desired, drizzle each serving with Crèma, drizzle a little Cilantro Vinaigrette on the plate, and sprinkle sliced green onions on top. Accompany each serving with a lime wedge.

Serves 6.

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  1. says

    I would love to try this recipe. I wonder if it would propel my family members across the “I don’t like mushrooms” divide that we currently face?

    It was so nice to meet you face to face recently!


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