The Dancing Mushroom
In Japan and China Mai Take (or Hen of the Woods) is a much-loved culinary mushroom. Legend has it that Mai Take got its name because foragers danced with happiness when finding it. Mai Take can be wild or cultivated but in both cases its taste is powerful, intense and nutty. Make sure you cook Mai Take through and through, otherwise you may upset your stomach (and other parts of your body).
Mai Take combines very well with beef and thyme. It is also great when combined with shrimps, crab, coquilles St Jacques, coriander, dill and parsley; a salad created by Antonio Carluccio and published in 2003 in the Complete Mushroom Book. The book has a wealth of wonderful, simple recipes.
In this case we combine beautiful veal rib eye with Mai Take, using a Madeira jus to bring the flavours together. The fried Mai Take comes with a lovely crunch. We love the way the taste of the combination develops in the mouth. We use rib eye because it is the most tender and delicate part of the veal. It is nicely marbled making it an excellent choice to grill or fry.
Don’t be tempted to buy so called ‘cooking Madeira’. This is some horrible, sweet liquid that is not even close to Madeira. One for the bin. We bought a bottle of medium dry Madeira (Santa Maria). It is perfectly suited for this recipe.
A Rioja Crianza is a good choice. In general a Rioja Crianza is a high-quality, affordable wine. It’s not too rich, but with Tempranillo’s natural high tannin it has quite a bit of body. The wines are commonly aged for one year in used oak casks, so the oak flavours are not too strong. The wine will show notes of sweet spice, vanilla, black and red fruit.
What You Need
- Veal Rib Eye (let’s say 300 grams)
- Veal stock
- 75 gram Mai Take
- Olive Oil
- Black Pepper
What You Do
The veal must be at room temperature. So take it out of the refrigerator let’s say 2 hours in advance. Heat a heavy iron skillet, add olive oil and butter. Fry and cook to perfection (pink is the colour you’re looking for). You could also transfer it to the oven for an internal core temperature of 60° Celsius or 140° Fahrenheit. When ready wrap in foil and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Add some veal stock and Madeira to the pan and warm. Add the liquid from the veal on a regular basis.
Remove the base of the Mai Take and then slice in 2 of 4 parts and fry for a few minutes. Apply some pressure, you want the Mai Take to look like a fan, perhaps the suggestion of coral.
Slice the veal and serve with the Mai Take, a generous amount of jus and some black pepper.
PS In case you have too much meat, simply store it in the refrigerator for the next day and serve as Vitello Tonato.