When supermarkets are offering more varieties of fresh mushrooms - portobello, crimini, shiitake, even morels in season - why buy dried?

Showcase magazine, a publication of the National Association for Specialty Food Trade, recently spelled out three good reasons: Dried mushrooms offer flavor, convenience and mushroom "broth."Fresh mushrooms are about 90 percent water; dried mushrooms are about 90 percent flavor.

Convenience is not being limited to the mushrooms' "seasons," not having to carefully clean them without soaking and not worrying about the gills opening as the mushrooms quietly age in the refrigerator. Dried mushrooms wait until you're ready to use them.

Reconstituting dried mushrooms in water results in a very flavorful "broth." This mushroom liquid can do as much to add and round out the flavor of a dish as a tiny amount of anchovies. The usual directions are to soak dried wild mushrooms in hot water from 20 minutes to 2 hours. The longer the soaking, the better the extraction. Or put an ounce of dried mushrooms in 2 cups of water and heat it a few minutes with microwaves to get a good start on "broth."

Whichever way you go, coarsely chop the reconstituted mushrooms (they won't be pretty) and add them to a stew, sauce or soup. Strain any grit from the liquid.