I love the fall, when the leaves change color and fresh wild mushrooms are in abundance. The glory of this particular dish lies in the extravagant enjoyment of fresh wild mushrooms, and the pleasure of seeing nature being echoed on your plate with garnishes of “maple leaf” carrots and “pine needle” green beans. I like to serve this rice dish outdoors in its natural environment, with a picnic assortment of savory tidbits such as Seashore Chicken Swirls, Japanese-Style Breaded Fried Oysters, Chicken Dumplings, Flower Turnips, or Spicy Sautéed Radish Peels. If I serve this dish indoors, I prefer to pair it with Sweet and Spicy Grilled Leg of Lamb, Steak with wasabi Butter, Soy-Braised Duck Salad, or Glaze-Grilled Salmon Steaks.
With a damp cloth or mushroom brush, dust fresh mushrooms such as matsutaké, shiitaké, or chanterelles to remove residual dirt. Trim the stems to remove any moldy tips and with your fingers pull the mushrooms apart, lengthwise, into strips. With a knife cut these into ½-inch lengths. With your hands, tear any large caps into
If you’re using enokidaké, remove them from their plastic bag, rinse the heads under cold running water, and shake dry. Remove and discard the bottom halves, cutting the remaining stems into
If you’re using the pearly-gray shimejitaké, they need to be rinsed under cold water and gently squeezed dry. Trim away the moldy parts of the stems and, with your hands, separate each mushroom from the larger mass. If the caps of the mushrooms are more than
Season the stock with the rice wines and light soy sauce. Bring this mixture to a boil over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, reducing the heat if necessary to maintain a steady simmer. Cook the mushrooms for 2–2½ minutes, then strain them, pressing gently to extract all cooking liquid. Reserve both the mushrooms and the liquid separately. Add water, if necessary, to the seasoned mushroom liquid to measure
Wash the rice thoroughly and let it drain completely. Place the drained rice and the mushroom liquid in a 3- to 3½-quart pot, one that has straight sides and a tight-fitting lid. Cook over high heat for 5 minutes or until the liquid is bubbling. Lower the heat and continue to cook for another 5 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed. You can usually hear the changes in the cooking stages, but if you must peek inside to check the rice’s progress, do so quickly, immediately replacing the lid.
Remove the pot from the stove and let the rice self-steam for at least 10 minutes (this ensures tender grains of cooked rice) but no more than
Trim both ends of the green beans and cut them in half if longer than
With scissors, cut narrow strips of seaweed, approximately
If you have a maple leaf cutter, use it to cut out shapes from the carrot rounds. If not, cut the carrots in half to make half-moons. Blanch the cut carrots for 1–½ minutes in boiling salted water, then drain.
(You might want to make the green-bean and carrot garnishes ahead of time, which is fine as long as you keep the precut “autumn foliage” at room temperature while you prepare the mushrooms and rice.)
Scatter the “maple leaf” or half-moon carrots and the “pine needle” green beans across the rice, to give the illusion that the leaves and pine needles have fallen on the forest floor. The Japanese name for this dish translates as “Autumn Stroll.”
Serve the rice warm, or let it cool to room temperature and cover with a damp cloth and clear plastic wrap if you wish to keep it for several hours before eating. No refrigeration is necessary for up to 5 hours; in fact if you do refrigerate the rice, you’ll need to “freshen” it in a microwave (15 seconds on “boil”）or a double boiler (10 minutes over low heat) before serving. Garnish only after reheating.
© 1985 Elizabeth Andoh. All rights reserved.