It is no dream…
Matsutake are growing
On the belly of the mountain
- Haiku by Shigetaka
There is something marvelous about the famous “pine mushroom,” the matsutake. Their distinctive spicy aroma and flavor are absolutely unique in the mushroom world.
The exotic allure of wild mushrooms has inspired many poets across the centuries. No surprise, then, that the matsutake, so highly regarded in Japan, has inspired volumes of haiku.
Equally inspired, David Arora, author of “Mushrooms Demystified,” described the scent of matsutakes as somewhere between Red Hots (cinnamon candies) and dirty socks. While this description may not do the matsutake justice, just take one whiff of a freshly picked speciman and you’ll know exactly what he means.
The flavor of matsutake mushrooms is clean and spicy, their surprisingly firm texture meaty and satisfying. Everyone seems to agree that simple preparations are the best way to showcase the unique qualities of the matsutake.
Our friend, Hank Shaw, offers several ideas on using matsutake mushrooms on his popular website, Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. We’ve used some of his suggestions, as well as ideas from other mushroom lovers, to come up with our own trio of simple recipes that highlight the special qualities of this extraordinary mushroom.
We that hope you will enjoy them.
Matsutake Mushroom Chowder
The firm texture of matsutake mushrooms is a superb substitute for clams in this take on the classic New England style chowder. In fact, you might just come to prefer this version over the “traditional” kind!
- 12 oz matsutake mushrooms (or other fresh wild mushrooms, such as chanterelles, hen of the woods, etc)
- 2 carrots
- 3 stalks celery
- 1 large onion
- 1/2 lb small fingerling potatoes
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 2 cups milk
- 2 Tbsp flour
- Salt & pepper to taste
Clean the mushrooms of any dirt & debris (rinsing briefly under cold running water if necessary). Cut into strips 1/4 inch thick.
Peel the carrots and onions and dice into 1/4 inch squares. Trim the celery and cut into 1/4 inch squares. Slice the fingerlings into 1/4 inch thick rounds.
Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the celery, carrots & onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 6 minutes. Add the diced matsutake mushrooms, stir well and cover the pot. Cook for another 5 – 10 minutes, or until the mushrooms have softened and released their liquid. Add the bay leaf, a twist or two of pepper from the pepper grinder and a good pinch of salt. Add the chicken stock and sliced fingerling potatoes, stir and cover the pot. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 – 20 minutes or until the potatoes yield when pierced with a fork.
Whisk the flour into the milk until all the flour is completely incorporated and the mixture is smooth and free of lumps. Stir into the soup and simmer for another 10 minutes or until the soup has thickened slightly. If the soup is too thick, add more milk until the desired texture is achieved. Adjust salt & pepper to taste.
Note: for added richness, substitute 1/2 cup of heavy cream for 1/2 cup of the milk.
This soup reheats well. Like many soups, the flavor will improve over the next day or two.
Roasted Matsutake Mushrooms
Brush any dirt and forest debris from the mushrooms. If necessary, rinse briefly under cold running water & blot dry. Quarter each mushroom lengthwise.
Mix the mirin and soy sauce in a shallow bowl. Place the matsutake pieces in the bowl with the mirin-soy sauce mixture. Allow to marinate for 15 – 20 minutes, turning to coat all sides of the mushrooms.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Remove the mushroooms from the marinade, reserving any remaining liquid. Place the mushrooms on a broiler pan in the upper third of the oven. Roast for approximately 15 minutes, turning twice & basting with the reserved marinade. Remove the mushrooms from the oven when they are golden in color with bits of darker brown around the edges.
Matsutake Tempura with Ponzu Sauce
- 2 – 3 medium matsutake mushrooms
- 2 Tbsp sake
- 1/2 cup rice flour
- 1 cup cooking oil, such as canola or peanut
- Ponzu Sauce for dipping (recipe follows)
Clean the matsutake mushrooms as in previous recipes. Cut into approximately 1/8 inch thick slices. Turn each mushroom slice in the sake, then dredge with the rice flour and shake off the excess.
Heat the cooking oil over medium high heat in a deep heavy-bottomed pot. The oil should be approximately 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep. Drop a crumb of rice flour into the pot to test for heat. When it sizzles, the oil is sufficiently hot.
Cook the flour-coated mushroom slices in batches, slipping a few pieces into the hot oil, one at a time. Do not over crowd the pan. Turn each piece as it browns. When both sides are golden brown & crisp, remove them to a paper towel-lined pan and keep warm in a 200 degree oven.
Serve immediately while hot with ponzu sauce for dipping on the side.
Mix all three ingredients well and serve in small dishes for dipping.