Q. I bought a package of mixed, dried mushrooms at the store, thinking I could use them almost like fresh. I didn’t like the results. What exactly can these be used for?
A. Dried mushrooms have been widely used for a long time, especially in Asian cooking. They offer one distinct utility: while fresh mushrooms–especially the exotic or wild varieties–are only available when they pop out of the ground, you can get the same species in dried form much more often. For example, we don’t find morel mushrooms growing around New Orleans, but you can usually get dried morels.
The essential first step is to soak the ‘shrooms in warm water, sometimes for hours, before you use them. At which point you can almost use them like fresh–but with a loss of a certain something. (Freshness, I guess.) Remember to save the water the mushrooms soaked in, which will be a great addition to the sauce.
Some chefs put dried mushrooms in a food processor, grind them up, and use them as a coating. (There’s a great chicken dish made that way at Bistro Daisy on Magazine Street.)
In other words, try them again, doing all the tasks above before just throwing them into the pot.