This is the last installment of Matsutake dishes. Because Japanese consider rice to be the main stay of the meal or “shushoku” 主食, “Takikomi goahnn” 炊き込みご飯 or rice seasoned with other ingredients is something special, especially if seasonal items are incorporated such as mushrooms (especially matsutake 松茸) and chestnuts 栗 in fall and bamboo shoots in spring. As I mentioned earlier, we got 1 Lb of of North American (Oregon) matsutake mushrooms. One of the dishes I made was a type of seasoned rice, “Matustake rice” 松茸ご飯. I made this with only matsutake so as not to cover up the subtle but distinctive aroma and flavor of the mushroom.
Matsutake: Among the matsutake we got, I picked a very large one for this dish (left upper in the image below). After clearing the matsutake as I described before, I separated the stem and the head since this was a large one. I torn the stem in the direction of the fibers (right upper in the image below). I made rather fine shreds of the stem and then halved the head and sliced it (left lower). I doused the pieces with sake and light-colored soy sauce or usukuchi shouyu 薄口醤油 and let it be absorbed for few minutes.
Cooking liquid: I could have used just water but it is better to use a very mild dashi broth and sake to enhance but not cover up the flavor of the matsutake. I soaked 5-7 inches of dried kelp 昆布 in about 500ml of cold water (I used filtered water) and let it stand overnight or, at least, several hours. The kelp will absorb water and assume its original state. It imparts a subtle kelp flavor to the broth. For 360 ml of rice, I used 400ml of the cooking liquid consisting of the kelp broth, 2 tbs of light colored soy sauce and 2 tbs of sake.
Rice: Many people like to add a small amount of glutenous rice (mochigome もち米) but I only used regular short grain Japanese rice from California (a brand called “Kagayaki“). I washed 2 cups (Japanese cups) or 360ml of rice. I washed the rice until the water came out clean not turbid. In the last few washes, I again used filtered water and drained the rice in a fine mesh strainer. I let it sit for 20-30 minutes. This appears to let the rice grains absorb just the right amount of water before cooking.
Cooking rice using an earthenware rice cooker: I could certainly have used my electric rice cooker but this time I used “Donabe” 土鍋 or earthenware rice cooker called “Kamado san”. You can see the final product (right lower in the above image). When I removed the outer lid (see image below), I could really smell the matsutake. This type of rice cooker has an inner lid and an outer lid which make the pot act somewhat like a pressure cooker. As per the instructions that came with the cooker, I added the washed and drained rice (the original 2 Japanese cups or 360ml) and the cooking liquid (400ml). I placed the pot on a medium flame for 14 minutes and then turned off the heat and let it stand for 20 minutes.
I do not use the donabe cooker that often just because it is a bit of work to clean and dry (especially drying) it after use. But there is no doubt it produces better cooked rice. The matsutake rice turned out really well with lots of flavor and a nice slightly firm texture– it was perfect. Usually a special Japanese herb called “mitsuba” 三つ葉 is called for but I did not have any. I used the thinly sliced green part of a scallion instead for garnish. We were not able to finish all the rice, so we put the leftovers into small packages and froze them. We’ll let you know how that works out. You should taste this at least once a year.