Not a single industry is untouched by this COVID-19 pandemic. And buying local has never been so important – to support small family businesses. By purchasing local ingredients from farmers and processors and eating at local establishments, you strengthen Canada’s food supply chain. You can make a real difference in your neighbours’ lives and perhaps make new friends along the way, too.
In the week-long spans of constant drizzle and everlasting rain clouds above Vancouver, I love to sit back and enjoy a warm bowl of chicken and mushroom stew. This dish never fails to give me a warm glowing feeling with every bite.
Mushrooms generally grow in moist, cool conditions. Hundreds of different kinds of mushrooms grow in Canada year-round. Excellent locales for mushroom harvesting include British Columbia’s west coast forests, and the eastern hardwood forests of Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes – especially in the fall. A 2016 census estimated that 305 Canadian farmers grow mushrooms.
Wood mushrooms are a type of mushroom that can be purposefully cultivated in a controlled manner in woodlots. These mushrooms grow on trees and fallen logs. Originally, mushroom cultivation on wood started in Asia over 2,000 ago, but has recently become a growing agricultural trend in Canada. Gourmet mushrooms, such as oyster and shiitake mushrooms, are cultivated using this method. Fun fact: the first B.C. shiitake mushroom farms were started in 1979 by Doctor Theodore Takeuchi, utilizing drilled and inoculum-plugged deciduous tree logs.
Shiitake mushrooms, the main ingredient of my stew, is the second most cultivated mushroom in the world. They generally take about two years to grow, but are totally worth the wait. Shiitake mushrooms are thought to have medicinal properties, believed to be an immune system stimulant and are anti-carcinogenic. They are also an excellent source of potassium, niacin and B Vitamins, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, giving you even more reasons to try them.
When buying shiitake mushrooms, wrinkles or puckering on the skin indicate that it has dried out and is not fresh. If you press your finger into the mushroom it should bounce back easily. They can stay fresh in the fridge for 14 days. It’s best to clean mushrooms by wiping them with a damp paper towel. Mushrooms can absorb a large amount of water if soaked, which will dilute its flavor.
For this recipe, I chose to go with shiitake mushrooms because their smokey flavor makes a great gravy and pairs amazingly with chicken. The smokey flavor of the mushrooms is brought out by the aromatic combination of garlic and ginger – great for warming you up on a rainy day! Another reason I chose to go with shiitake mushrooms is that they are grown locally in my home province of B.C., but you can also find many mushroom woodlots, such as Holburne Mushroom Farms, around Canada that grow great fungi!
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 2-inch fresh ginger
- 3 large chicken breasts
- 1 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
- 8 oz fresh shiitake mushrooms
- 3 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons rice wine
- 1 cup mushroom stock made from soaking dried mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- Red chili – optional
- 1 green onion
- Black pepper
- Onion powder
- Garlic powder
- Salt to taste
Chicken and Shiitake Mushroom Stew Recipe
Preparing the Ingredients – Black Shire Gardens is a great shiitake mushroom producer in Grey County, Ont.
Dried mushrooms have condensed flavor that really stands out in the broth. The broth will be used for the gravy and also adds a slightly chewy texture compared to fresh ones.
- Slice the chicken breast into small cubes about 2 cm in width. Do not wash the raw chicken breast. This potentially aerosolize bacteria living on the surface. Wash hands before handling other ingredients. Season chicken with garlic powder, onion powder, salt and black pepper.
- Mince garlic and ginger and place in a small bowl
- Boil the dried shiitake mushrooms water for 30 minutes.
- Save at least 1 cup of the broth in a separate container. It will be used to make the stew later.
- Remove the mushroom stems as they are hard to eat
- Slice the dried shiitake mushrooms into 2-3 mm strips. Place in a bowl.
- Fresh red chilis are optional. Slice chilis at an angle in 2-3 mm strips.
- Slice green onions at an angle in 2-3 mm strips.
- To make cornstarch slurry – add 2 tablespoons of hot water to 1 tablespoon of cornstarch in a container. Mix well. This will prevent the cornstarch from clumping.
Cooking the Chicken and Shiitake Mushroom Stew
- Heat cooking oil (I used avocado oil) in a wide pan on a medium-high heat until it just begins to smoke.
- Add minced garlic and ginger to the pan and stir until they begin to brown
- Add seasoned chicken and toss until the outside of the chicken is cooked.
- Add sliced fresh and rehydrated mushrooms. Stir-fry for a 2-3 minutes.
- Add oyster sauce, soy sauce, rice wine and a hint of sesame oil. The alcohol in the rice wine will cook off, while simultaneously binding the aromatic ingredients in the dish.
- Toss ingredients in the frying pan together for another 2 minutes.
- Add 1 cup of mushroom broth to the frying pan. Cover and heat until boiling. Turn the heat down to a low and allow it to simmer for 15-20 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- Add sliced red chilis to simmering pan – optional
- Add the cornstarch slurry to the pan to the simmering pan. Mix well.
- Serve with rice. Garnish with green onions to taste.
- Perfect for a rainy day!
Shiitake Mushroom Producers in Canada:
Check out some other of our other In-Season Recipes!