Mushrooms are a staple in our kitchens for a lot of reasons: they're versatile, hearty, can stand in for protein when the fridge is running low and (depending on the mushroom you're buying) inexpensive. Of all the mushrooms we love (and there are a lot of them) we probably use shiitake mushrooms the most. The descriptor "meaty" gets thrown around a lot when we talk about mushrooms, but shiitakes, more than any other, embody a satisfying umami you can't really get from any other plant-based food.
As these mushrooms have grown in popularity, they are available fresh in more grocery stores than ever -- it wasn't so long ago when they seemed really exotic and you could only find the dried variety. When using fresh shiitakes, do us one favor: don't throw out the stems. We know that they are too woody to eat. We know that they don't sautée and soften as well as the caps. Cut them off, toss them in a freezer bag and put them into your next vegetable stock. It will taste richer and heartier than any vegetable stock you've ever made, we promise. We love to use shiitakes anywhere you'd use a button or cremini mushrooms, but there are shiitake recipes (often Asian) that highlight this mushroom's flavor especially well.