Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Rice Bowl Project-Mushroom Rice

"Endless rice." These two words appear on the inside of the menu at a Filipino restaurant which I read about recently. Oldest Daughter's Southern Beau is half-Filipino and believe me, rice runs deep with him. So much so that I have learned to adjust the amount of rice I make when he comes. The first time I made rice with dinner, my daughter leaned over to him and whispered, "The rice is for everyone." You learn and make adjustments. Rice is to him what mashed potatoes are to her: comfort.
This recipe was influenced by one of the rice pots on the menu at SakaMai, a Japanese restaurant in New York City. It’s simple and filled with the satisfying flavor of  umami, the “meaty” flavor called the “fifth” taste in Japanese cuisine. At Saki Mai, they take it over the top with shaved truffle, but we’ll overlook that here. For the rice’s cooking liquid they use dashi, the traditional Japanese broth/cooking stock made from kombu (edible kelp) and kezurikatsuo (preserved and fermented tuna). The kezurikatsuo imparts umami to the rice, but I rely on the flavors of the mushrooms and some soy sauce for that in this recipe. Both of those ingredients are rich in umami.
Any rice will work. I chose brown Japanese rice but as long as you follow the cooking directions for the rice you choose, the recipe will work just as easily. I used a 4 ounce package of mixed mushrooms (crimini, shiitake, and oyster) that were readily available to me. It’s too early for fresh wild mushrooms so I will have to put off making this with wild mushrooms for a few weeks longer. You could also use dried mushrooms. You won’t need four ounces since they expand when they hydrate. 1½ to 2 ounces should be enough. If you do use dried mushrooms, cover them with hot water and leave them to soak until tender. Carefully drain the soaking liquid watching for any sediment and use the flavor rich liquid as part of the cooking liquid for your rice.
I skipped the truffles. Not practical. SakiMai also uses some truffle butter. My local grocery store had D’Artagnan’s truffle butter but I found that it didn’t add that much additional flavor. I drizzled some truffle oil on the completed rice but that was only because I had some on hand. (I am the lucky recipient of food gifts from friends and family).
I know it’s just a bowl of rice and mushrooms, but what is a mushroom risotto after all? You could also use the mushroom rice to accompany a protein of your choosing. Or pair it with a salad or with a sautéed vegetable. It’s your choice. 

Mushroom Rice Bowl
For two servings
4 ounces mushrooms (your choice)
1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and ground black pepper
olive oil, for cooking the mushrooms
½ cup rice
1 cup water
½ teaspoon light soy sauce
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, optional
1. Rinse and slice the mushrooms. Place a medium-sized sauté pan onto the stove over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, swirl in about two tablespoons of olive oil into the pan. Add the mushrooms; season with some salt and pepper and cook the mushrooms until tender, about five minutes. Remove pan from heat and set aside.
2. Place a medium-sized saucepan onto the stove. Add the water to the pot and season with the soy sauce. Add the butter (if using). Bring the water to a boil. Stir in the rice. Place the cooked mushrooms and any cooking liquid in the pan into the pot. Stir, then cover the pot. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook the rice until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Mix the cooked rice together with the mushrooms and serve.
The bowl, or chawan, pictured here and above was made by Mitch Iburg, a gifted potter currently
living and working in Mendocino, CA. You can view his work at his website: 

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