Dried Oyster Mushrooms
The oyster mushroom is also called abalone and shellfish mushroom, though it should not be confused with other given names. It is botanically classified as Pleurotus ostreatus. It is a common edible mushroom, and can be used as a replacement for fresh mushrooms in most recipes.
Dried oyster mushrooms have scallop-shaped caps that range in sizes from button to sand dollar. Their coloring varies from snow grey to pale brown. Although the drying process allows for some flavor intensity, dried oyster mushrooms are still rather mild and sweet. Once reconstituted they have a soft fragile texture with good melting qualities and a light fruity fragrance.
Oyster mushrooms delicately textured caps allow for both a quick dehydration and re-hydration time. They are one of the few mushroom that does not need to be re-hydrated before cooking. Add them to a dish toward the end of the cooking process as they require little cooking time to accentuate their discreet flavor and texture. Oyster mushrooms pair well with seafood and white meats. Add to fresh pastas, polenta, rice, corn meal, grains or eggs. The oyster mushroom's meaty texture lends well to frying, stir-frys, and braising. Complementary flavors include Asian greens, soy, garlic, vinegar and rice wine. Store dried oyster mushrooms in an airtight container until ready to use.
Geography/History: Oyster mushrooms can be found growing wild in autumn forests, cascading in tight shelflike patterns along dead hardwood deciduous trees, especially beech. Most often, though, oyster mushrooms are cultivated in controlled environments.