tofu-stuffed shiitake mushrooms garnished with a sprig of kinome (sansho leaves)
Gunma Prefecture is a major producer of mushrooms in Japan, especially maitake and shiitake mushrooms. I bought some beautiful shiitake mushrooms recently and used them to make the tofu-stuffed shiitake mushrooms from Washoku. I had only 5 large mushrooms, so I actually made a half batch, which was just the right size for dinner for two. If you want to make a half batch of mushrooms, be sure to use a smaller skillet so that the sauce doesn’t reduce too quickly.
Although I can get nagaimo easily (which is suggested in the recipe notes), but I didn’t have any in the refrigerator and I wasn’t sure when I would use the rest of it, so I used the cornstarch substitution that’s suggested.
I made a little more than half of the filling from the recipe because my mushrooms were fairly large. I would say that if you have larger mushrooms, be generous with the amount of filling that you prepare, since I think it’s better to have too much than too little (you could fry it up as a tofu “burger” if there weren’t enough mushrooms. I filled the mushrooms just to the edge of the caps at first, and then divided the remaining filling among the mushrooms so that they were all filled evenly.
I did forget to press the excess moisture from the tofu, so the filling was fairly loose. I was worried that it wouldn’t be stiff enough to stay in the mushrooms when I flipped them over into the pan, but it turned out to be no problem – just make sure to flip them into the hot pan quickly. The tofu filling browns nicely and the mushrooms cook surprisingly quickly, allowing me to get dinner on the table in under an hour.
In traditional Japanese cooking, the main dish of a meal is rice (in fact, meals are called “gohan,” which means rice). Aside from soup, it is typical to serve about three side dishes or “okazu.” Of course, to my Western-raised sensibilities, it’s strange to think of rice as my main dish, and everything else as a side dish, so usually one of the okazu still holds the same place in my mind as a “main dish” does in a western meal. The tofu-stuffed mushrooms were the central okazu of this meal, along with rice, miso soup, grilled corn-on-the-cob, and salad.
Tofu-Stuffed Fresh Shiitake Mushrooms
Adapted from Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen by Elizabeth Andoh
1/2 block firm tofu, about 6 1/2 ounces, drained and pressed
1/4 teaspoon saikyo miso
1 1/2 tablespoons beaten egg
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch or 1 teaspoon ground yama-imo
12 plump, uniform fresh shiitake mushrooms, about 3 ounces total weight
2 teaspoons mirin
2 teaspoons usukuchi shoyu
1/3 cup dashi
1/2 teaspoon fragrant pepper salt (sansho-kosho and salt)
1/2 teaspoon ocean herb salt (ao-nori and salt)
Place the tofu, miso, and egg in a food processor and pulse until creamy and smooth, about 10 seconds. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl. Sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons of the cornstarch over the tofu and, using a spatula with cutting and folding motions, mix thoroughly.
Remove the stems from the mushrooms and wipe the caps clean. If the underside of the cap appears to be trapping grit, brush it clean with a cotton swab. Dust the underside of the caps with the remaining tablespoon of cornstarch; a pastry brush will simplify the task.
Stuff the mushroom caps with the tofu mixture, dividing it evenly. Use a butter knife or spatula to press out any air that might be trapped between the mushroom and the filling, and to smooth the surface, mounding the mixture in the center ever so slightly.
Use a skillet large enough to hold the mushrooms in a single layer. Place the skillet over medium heat and drizzle in the oil, swirling to coat the surface evenly. Place the mushrooms, filling sidedown, in the skillet. Press down on the mushrooms ever so slightly with an otoshi-buta or a broad, flat spatula. Hold for a few seconds to ensure the filling adheres to the mushroom caps, then sear the mushrooms for 1 minute undisturbed, or until the filling is very lightly crusted over.
Flip the mushrooms so that the filling faces up. Again, press lightly on the mushrooms and hold for a few seconds. Lower the heat ever so slightly and add the mirin, soy sauce, and stock. When the liquid begins to bubble, flip the mushrooms again, so the filling si face down. Raise the heat to medium-high and simmer for a few minutes until the skillet juices have reduced and thickened.
Remove the mushrooms from the skillet and arrange them on individual plates or on a single platter. Turn some mushrooms so that the light filling is visible, and others so tha the dark caps show. Pour any skillet juices over the mushrooms. Serve warm or at room temperature with the seasoned salts on the side. If your menu has no other spicy accent, the peppery sansho salt is a good choice. If your menu is lacking in foods from the sea, the ao nori sea herb salt provides a briny touch.
Recipe copyright Elizabeth Andoh
writing copyright 2008 LMS