This Pantry Ingredient Is Like Having A Magic Wand in Your Cooking Toolbag!

Are you interested in knowing how to turn out incredible cooked salmon, EVERY TIME using one common tool and one pantry ingredient? This is such an easy thing to do, and creates such delicious dishes, that it just may change how you’ll cook salmon and season anything that needs a boost, forever! It’s like having a magic wand in your cooking tool-bag.

This comes from, and was shared by Marc Matsumoto (a chef and culinary creator based in Tokyo, Japan. He teaches the basics of Japanese cuisine through his food blog and YouTube channel, and is also the host of the television series Bento Expo on NHK World).

As he explains, it’s all about flavor. And what do most of us do when we want to enhance flavor? We turn to seasoning blends designed for just that purpose. Ac’cent®, Mrs. Dash®, and Morton’s Season All® are typical choices, for instance.

The problem with these commercial blends, of course, is the inclusion of MSG in the mix. Marc said he was convinced there had to be a better way to bring flavor-enhancing umami glutamates to his salmon. And then he remembered something.

What Marc did in prepping his salmon took no planning, no small machine (or small machine clean-up), and, yes, no recipe. He grabbed a Microplane and grated dried shiitake mushrooms over the salmon. The nice surprise was the mushrooms didn’t crumble or fight against the grater. They yielded obediently, curling away in Parmesan-like tufts, till the salmon looked like it was covered in a fuzzy chenille blanket.

The marvelous thing about his technique is the health benefits the shiitake mushrooms bring to your salmon (as opposed to no health benefits from packaged seasoning blends). Shiitake are rich in polysaccharides like lentinans and other beta-glucans. These compounds protect against cell damage, help your immune system, and boost white blood cell production for fighting off microbes. Polysaccharides also have anti-inflammatory properties.

Also, there is no perceptible mushroomy flavor with grated shiitake mushrooms. When cooking salmon this way it tastes like it’s been made by a very intuitive and talented cook (according to Marc and other professional chefs) who waved some mysterious magic wand!

I’ll close with another tip from a Food52 reader and Marc’s recipe for his now-famous salmon. First the tip: “Have you tried using mushroom powder? I get it from - it comes in what seems like an enormous quantity, given how little one needs for any particular purpose, but it keeps forever, and once you start using it, you'll be glad to have a good supply. It's wonderful for so many uses, most where, as here, you don't want actually to taste mushrooms, you just want a perceptible umami boost. And the powder is ever so convenient.”

And now Marc’s recipe. After you try this magic wand on salmon, what will you use it on next?

Shiitake Salmon with Crispy Skin (courtesy of Marc Matsumoto)


1 1/2 pounds thick salmon steaks or other fish like striped bass or cod (1 large fillet or four 6-ounce fillets)
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 pinches kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 to 2 large, dried shiitake mushrooms

1. Heat the oven to 275°F. Place the salmon fillet(s) on a sheet pan. Rub the salmon all over with the oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.

2. Use a Microplane to finely grate the dried shiitake generously onto both sides of the salmon—it should look like a thick, fluffy blanket all over the fish. Arrange the fillet(s) on the pan skin side-down, with an inch or two between each fillet.

3. Roast until a fork inserted in the thickest part of the salmon meets no resistance, the flesh separates easily from the skin, and is just beginning to flake when you poke into it, 10 to 35 minutes. An instant-read thermometer should read 120°F. (Don't worry if the top of the fish has a slightly transparent look; this is the result of the low roasting temperature.) Remove the fish from the oven.

4. Optional, but recommended: Switch the oven to broil on high. With a spatula, slide the salmon off the skin and transfer the salmon to a plate. Place the pan with the skin on a rack about 5 inches under the heating element and broil until the skin blisters and turns golden brown in spots, 1 to 2 minutes, depending on your broiler (watch carefully as it can burn quickly).

5. Serve warm, room temperature, or cold, tearing or crumbling the crispy salmon skin over the top.

Recipe formatted with the Cook'n Recipe Software from DVO Enterprises.

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    Alice Osborne
    Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2006
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