I keep dried mushrooms in my pantry to use any time I want to add a deep, woodsy, mushroom flavor to soups, stews, rice, pastas, and other dishes. They’re easier to use than you think—you just need to soak them to soften them up.
Reconstitute dried mushrooms in hot or tepid water depending on how much time you have. Pouring boiling water over the mushrooms plumps them up in no time (2 to 20 minutes—tender oyster mushrooms are the quickest; tougher shiitakes take longer). Or soak them overnight in room-temperature water. I prefer the latter method, as it leaves slightly more flavor in the mushroom and less in the soaking liquid.
In place of water, try soaking mushrooms in stock, Madeira, sherry, or Marsala, and then remember not to throw away that flavorful “tea.” Just decant it carefully, as there will be some sediment at the bottom. Then add the liquid to whatever you’re cooking or save it for a soup.
Check the softened mushrooms by squeezing gently to see if there are any hard parts, which should be cut off. You’ll have to remove the tough stems of shiitakes, for instance, no matter how long you soak them.