21 October 2009


At the Tuesday Market I came across Paul Lagrèze's booth. He had two things to sell: hen of the woods (maitake) and matsutake. I had had hen of the woods —they are incredible — but I had only heard of the famous matsutake. They can't be cultivated, so they must be found in the wild.

I bought some that were open, although the closed fungi are more prized (allegedly fetching hundreds, even thousands, per kilo). They smelled of cinnamon and pine and were very delicate despite being almost the size of portobello.

I marinated them in a splash each of mirin, tamari, and grapeseed oil. I grilled them on an extremely hot grill for a minute or two, charring the skin but leaving them partially cooked. I tossed them in the marinate and cut them into bite-size pieces.

I served them with sweet brown rice, a ginger-garlic-kombu broth over leeks and carrots, bettara-zuke, and tempeh fried with shichimi togarashi (seven spice powder). This way the matsutake were the centerpiece, surrounded by other simple dishes.

The matsutake were incredible. They were firm yet gave easily to the tooth, with a velvety, rich flesh. They tasted faintly of pine but had an overwhelming yet subtle flavor that compares to nothing that I have ever had. Without any doubt, they are one of the most singular and delicious foods that I have ever tried.

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