Welcome to the wonderful world of the Dancing Mushroom, better known as Maitake, Hen of the Woods or Ram’s Head. Enjoy the powerful, intense and nutty flavours and be intrigued by the aroma. No wonder it’s a much loved culinary mushroom!
Legend has it that maitake got its name because foragers danced with happiness when finding it. Nowadays maitake can be wild or cultivated. Both are fine; we actually prefer the cultivated ones. Make sure you cook maitake through and through, otherwise you may upset your stomach (and other parts of your body).
Maitake 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.
Our soup is perhaps a bit odd, because it’s a thickened soup, something you would perhaps not expect given dashi is the base of the soup. It’s a gentle soup, with some umami and bitterness. The fried maitake amplifies the flavours.
What You Need
For the Dashi
500 ml Water
10 grams Konbu
10 grams Katsuobushi
150 grams of Maitake
5 cm Fresh Ginger
Tablespoon of Cooked Plain Rice
What You Do
Prepare the dashi. Remove the base of the maitake. Set a few ‘leaves’ aside (to be fried later). Peel and quarter the ginger. Add the remaining ‘leaves’ of the maitake, the ginger and the cooked rice to the dashi. Leave for 20 minutes on low heat. Remove the ginger and use a blender to create a smooth mixture. You will notice that the maitake doesn’t thicken the soup, as a classic Champignon de Paris would do. The rice should do the trick. Pass through a sieve. Keep on low heat for another 10 minutes. Add a tablespoon of sake, some soy sauce and mirin. Taste and adjust if necessary. The quanities very much depend on the flavour of the maitake and your personal taste. You’re looking for umami, bitterness and depth. Leave for another 10 minutes on low heat. Add olive oil to a small heavy iron skillet and fry the remaining maitake; initially on medium heat, later on low heat. This may take 5 minutes. Use the blender for the second time to make sure the soup is perfectly smooth. Serve in a miso bowl.
Mai Take (Hen of the Woods) is originally a mushroom from Japan and China. The Mai Take is known as a medicinal mushroom (but we’re not sure what it is supposed to cure; we just love the texture and the taste!). It can be wild or cultivated. One of our favourites is a salad with Mai Take, Shrimp, Crab, Coquilles St Jacques, Coriander, Dill and Parsley, created byAntonio Carluccioand published in 2003 in the Complete Mushroom Book. Go to your local bookstore and buy it! The book has a wealth of wonderful, simple recipes.
Bavette is beef from the flank. Other names are Flap Meat, Sirloin Tip and maybe Hanger Meat. Bavette (and other meat from the flank) is often used for stewing and poaching. Not many know it is actually very tasty and great when eaten saignant. Plus it’s not expensive at all. It is however hard to find because most butchers will use it for stews and assume their customers are not interested in it. If your butcher is a real butcher (so one that buys a complete animal and not just vacuumed bits) it’s a matter of asking. Thyme is an essential element in the dish because it brings Bavette and Mai Take together. It’s not just a bridge between the two, it envelopes them.
We enjoyed our bavette with a glass of Verdarail, a rich wine from the south of France, with lots of red and black fruits. Spicy. A wine with a long finish and well-integrated tannins.
What You Need
100 gram Mai Take
What You Do
We’re not the world greatest carnivores. Bavette has an intense taste, so we would recommend 100 grams per person maximum. The bavette must be room temperature. So take it out of the refrigerator let’s say 2 hours in advance. Heat a heavy iron skillet, add olive oil. Fry as you would do a normal steak, but significantly longer. We fried our 214 gram of bavette for maybe 6 minutes. Agreed, you think your lovely bavette will be overcooked, but it will be fine. Ad some butter towards the end to coat the meat. Arroser and turn frequently. Check the firmness of the beef. As soon as you feel it becomes firmer, transfer to a plate and allow to rest for 15 minutes. The Mai Take need a few minutes only. Fry them gently in the same pan. You may want to add some of the juices of the bavette. Slice the bavette and serve with the Mai Take, a generous amount of fresh thyme and black pepper.