Matsutakes

matsutakes

“Next year,” our neighbor, Mr. Terashita, would say year after year, whenever I asked where he picked the coveted matsutake mushrooms here on the Island. But then he passed away, and his secrets went with him. Of course, I always figured I’d just stumble onto some matsutakes while hunting other mushrooms, but so far, it’s yet to happen. The only people who know where to find ’em locally anymore seem to be the old Japanese guys, and they aren’t talking. At least not to me. I completely understand.

But it leaves me to rely on the kindness of others to slake my craving for these unique, cinnamon-scented fungi. Like the ones in the picture, which are currently on their way to me from my good friend Bruce Hill up in BC. He’s dehydrating the mushrooms for shipping, and I’m stoked to cook with them. Thanks, Bruce!

If you have a secret matsutake spot, or cave in and buy them like I often consider doing, here’s a recipe: Wash and drain two cups of Japanese white rice. Add 2.25 cups of the liquid from rehydrating dried shiitake mushrooms, along with 1/3 cup rice vinegar and two tablespoons of soy sauce. Sprinkle in two generous pinches of kosher salt. Dice two medium sized matsutakes and add to the pot. Then bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes in a covered pot. Other options: for a sweeter finish, add a bit of sugar to taste (as my grandmother did) or a quarter cup of mirin. Some use bonito-dashi broth for the cooking liquid as well. But however you cook it, the result is simply amazing. Umami City! Spread a little of that ikura I posted about a while back over a mound of this rice and you’ll have what Bruce calls “The most Zen meal I ever ate.” Makes me hungry just thinking about it.

So, I’m going to try it with the dried matsutakes from Bruce, and I think it’ll be just as good. Perhaps, if they intensify their flavor during the drying process the way shiitakes do, the rice will be even better.

But if you live near me and know where to find matsutakes, and for some strange reason, want to share, by all means, let me know. But I’m not holding my breath.

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