Fall is the season for wild mushrooms. We can get mushrooms all year round now of course, but the wild variety are at their best when the fungi can draw lots of nice nutrients from the rotting leaves and wood that is lying around.
Fungi are a strange thing. They feast on decay. All plant material draw energy to grow from their decayed ancestors, but fungi are the only things that draw all of their energy from this source. And, the more they can suck up, the more flavorful they seem to be.
Truffles for instance, are so greedy that they don't even raise their heads out of the earth, until their are sniffed out by pigs or dogs. (Allegedly, virgins can also detect truffles.) I was quite sceptical about the reputation enjoyed by the truffle, until the day I actually had one, a real one, not just truffle oil or the microscopic specks of truffle that are allegedly in some canned patés. This was a real truffle, sliced into bold chunks and baked inside a dish modestly called a galette de pommes (potato cake) on the menu of the Beurehiesel in Stransbourg. (The Buerehiesel is a 3-star Michelin establishment, and our favorite restaurant right now. It will be mentioned many times in this blog I'm sure.) The wonderful fragrance of the truffle permeated the potato cake and made it something out of this world.
While we can't afford truffles on a regular basis, we can enjoy wild mushrooms. One of our favorite ways of enjoying a delightfully smelly bag of mixed fungi is simply cooked in our trusty rice cooker with a basic dashi stock. It can be assembled in no time, and then you just wait for your kitchen to be filled with the fragrance of the 'shrooms. It's low-fat too.
[Update:] See this vegan variation of mushroom rice.
Recipe: Japanese-style Mushroom Rice (kinoko takikomi gohan)
- 3 cups (750ml) of Japanese style _japonica_ rice (often sold as sushi rice)
- 3 1/2 cups (875ml) of basic dashi stock
- 300g (about 10-12 oz) of mixed mushrooms, such as shiitake, chantarelles, oyster mushrooms. You can use regular button mushrooms but it won't be nearly as good.
- Soy sauce
- Sake, or sherry
- Mirin (sweet rice wine) - optional: you can just use a little more sake and a touch of sugar instead
- 1 fried bean curd (aburaage) (optional)
Wash the rice well in several changes of water, until the water runs clear. Drain.
Slice the mushrooms, or simply shred them with your hands. Cut the fried bean curd into small pieces. Place in a bowl.
Sprinkle with 1-2 Tbs. of soy sauce, 1 Tbs of sake, and 1 Tbs of mirin. Let marinate for about an hour if possible, though you can skip this if you're in a hurry. If you do, massage the mushrooms a bit with your hands to make the marinade penetrate.
Place the rice in a rice cooker and add the dashi and mushroom mixture. Cook the rice.
If you don't have a rice cooker: place the rice mixture in a pot with a heavy bottom and tight fitting lid. Bring to a boil. Immediately lower the heat to the lowest possible setting, place the lid on top, and steam-cook for about 20 minutes. Switch off and let rest for at least an additional 10 minutes.
A non-vegetarian alternative is to add small bits of cut of chicken instead of the fried bean curd.
To make it more "western" to serve as a rice side-dish, add a bit of butter to the cooked rice.