Each season has its own culinary delights and treasures, but most Japanese would agree that fall offers the widest variety of food. The phrase aki no mikaku (“Fall delicacies”) encompasses a wide range of dishes based on fall foods. I especially like the land mushrooms and fall salmon combined in takikomi gohan.
Takikomi is a style of preparing rice in which the ingredients (like mushrooms and salmon) are first lightly blanched to create a flavorful broth. The broth is then used in place of water to cook the rice. The ingredients that have brought their flavors to the broth are returned briefly to the saucepan before being folded into the rice just before serving.
Takikomi dishes usually create a delicious crust called okoge at the bottom of the pot. This crust is coveted; be sure to include it in each serving when serving. Garnish with minced mitsuba clover, shallots and / or parsley. This mushroom-salmon version, in particular, combines the scent of the forest with the invigorating aroma of the sea. If you want to make this all-plant-based dish, use twice as much mushroom and not fish. For greater complexity and depth of flavor, include additional varieties of mushrooms such as ruffled maitake, plump eringi or thin enoki. Garnish with brine aonori to include a taste of the sea.
For 4-6 people
• 3 cups rice (see note 1 below)
• 250 grams (9 ounces) fresh boneless salmon fillets
• 150 grams (5 ounces) fresh mushrooms, a combination of several kinds
For the salmon marinade:
• 3 tablespoons Sake
• 2 tablespoons soya sauce
• 1 tablespoon mirin (mild, fermented cooking alcohol)
For the cooking broth:
• 3½ cups water (see note 1 below)
• 1 band (about 5 centimeters long) konbu (kelp)
• Minced Mitsuba, shallots and / or parsley, to garnish
1. Wash and drain the rice. Wash the rice well with cool cold water until the water runs clear. Drain and place in a sturdy 4 liter pot or the bowl of an automated rice cooker (mine has a 5 cup capacity).
2. Prepare the salmon. Cut the salmon into eight to 10 wide slices on the diagonal. Combine sake, soy sauce and mirin in a small bowl. Add the sliced salmon, stirring to coat. Let the salmon marinate for at least five minutes and up to an hour in the refrigerator.
3. Cut and slice the mushrooms. Use a combination of mushrooms such as fresh shiitake and shimeji. Remove the stems from the shiitake and cut the caps into thin slices. If using cluster-wrapped shimeji, cut off any grainy material (these mushrooms are grown in squat pots on plant-based material) before tearing the cluster into smaller, bite-sized portions. The irregular nooks and crannies that result from hand tearing these mushrooms catch more flavor when cooking than those sliced with a knife. Set the mushrooms aside.
4. Prepare the cooking broth. Place the water and kelp in a 2 quart saucepan over medium-low heat. When small bubbles start to appear at the bottom of the pot, add the sliced mushrooms and simmer for a minute. Using a skimmer or skimmer, remove the mushrooms and set them aside. The mushroom-infused liquid remaining in this pot is the start of your cooking broth; keep it to a naked quiver.
5. Add the pieces of salmon and their marinade to the barely simmering broth. Stir once to distribute the pieces. As soon as the surface of the salmon changes color, remove the pieces and set them aside with the mushrooms.
6. Boil the broth until clouds of foam appear, about 30 seconds. Line a colander with a paper towel and place it over a measuring cup; strain the broth. If you have less than 770 milliliters (3¼ cups), add water to make up the difference.
7. Cook the rice in a rice cooker, pouring the filtered salmon-mushroom broth over the rice (if you don’t have a rice cooker, see note 2 below). Before pressing the switch to start the appliance, make sure that the broth has cooled to room temperature – hot (or very cold) liquids will disturb the accuracy of your range’s thermostat.
8. When your machine warns you that you have completed the active cook cycle, carefully open the lid – so that the hot steam does not burn you – and add the blanched mushrooms and salmon, laying them on the rice. Close the lid and wait about 10 minutes; now is a good time to finish other preparations for dinner or to set the table.
9. Just before serving, use a shamoji (rice paddle) or other flat tool to gently cut and fold mushrooms and salmon in rice, Garnish with minced mitsuba, green onions and / or parsley.
• Note 1: Japanese rice cookers are sold with a cup (180 cubic centimeters) for measuring raw rice. Using this cup means you can use the lines marked on the bowl of the device as a guide for the water. If you are not using a rice cooker, or if you do not wish to use the markings on your appliance, it is essential to use the same cup measure for raw rice and water in order to preserve the proportions. relative.
• Note 2: If you don’t have a rice cooker, you can use your stove and a pot with a tight-fitting lid. Pour the drained salmon-mushroom broth over the rice. Return the blanched salmon and mushroom pieces to the pot, setting them on top – do not stir or mix with the uncooked rice.
Place the pot on high heat and cook for five minutes, or until the liquid is bubbling. Lower the heat and continue cooking for another five minutes, or until all of the liquid is absorbed. You can hear the changes in the cooking stages: in an old-fashioned Japanese ditty for cooking rice, the first bubbling is called choro-choro, while the drying-off stage is described as dad. If you need to peek inside to check the progress of the rice, do so quickly, immediately replacing the lid to retain moisture and pressure.
When the liquid has been absorbed, remove the pot from the heat and let the rice self-steam for at least 10 minutes (this ensures tender grains of rice). Then carefully cut and fold the mushrooms and salmon in the rice, decorate as above and serve.
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