Sometimes leftovers are the mother of invention. Just such an occurrence has led to the discovery of an intense flavor component in the campus kitchen of Herkimer College in New York.
Mike Tubia, campus executive chef with American Dining Creations at Herkimer, finished up using a bag of dehydrated mushrooms from a local company, “and I noticed that when I was done using the mushrooms for the intended purpose of making a stock with them, there was some ‘dust’ left in the bottom of the bag,” Tubia says.
As any inquisitive chef would do, Tubia tasted the mushroom “dust.” Eureka!
“I was amazed at how much flavor it had,” he recalls. “It got my wheels turning and I started playing around.”
Tubia began making his own mushroom powder—with shiitake, porcini and portabellas—using a commercial food dehydrator, then blending the ‘shrooms in a spice grinder. Flavorwise, the results are intense.
“The dehydration process intensifies the flavor and allows me to add that mushroom flavor profile to the dish while still keeping the focus on the protein,” Tubia says.
For example, one recipe Tubia developed involves crusting scallops in the mushroom powder then searing them in a screaming hot pan. Just adding one simple element—the powder—amps up the dish without screwing up the simple perfection of scallops, “such a delicate item that they can easily get lost on the plate if you add too much to them,” he says.
Not stopping with ‘shrooms, Tubia was soon dehydrating other veggies, including beets, spinach, carrots and tomatoes, turning each unique powder into garnishes for plates that add not only color, but a jolt of unexpected flavor.
“Because the flavor is more intense, it gets the diner’s palate thinking, ‘I taste mushrooms, but I don’t see them! How…?’” Tubia says, explaining the playful, hide-and-seek nature of modern American cuisine in a nutshell.
The powders have also worked well as a flavor boost for different menu items such as stirred into a risotto, crusting a variety of proteins and whipped into soft cheeses.
And there’s no need for the powders to complement just animal proteins. At Yale University, Executive Chef David Kuzma created this recipe for porcini-dusted turnips.