The Hen of the Woods is a delicacy. The Japanese would pay more than the French spend on truffles for a large Grifola frondosa. Maitakes have an amazing taste: the rich, woodsy flavor and the firm, meaty texture of the flesh make them the standout ingredient of any dish.
Chawan Mushi is a popular Japanese egg custard dish. In fact, special China cups are made for preparing and serving the custard. The cups come with lids that are used to keep the custard warm for a while after it is served. Here, in Chef Ming Tsai’s recipe, ramekins have been substituted for the traditional cups.
- 2-1/2 cups dashi (may substitute vegetable stock)
- 3 eggs 1 tbsp soy sauce (naturally brewed)
- 1/2 cup maitake mushroom petals
- 1 tbsp scallions, thinly sliced
- Grapeseed oil
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
- 4 small ramekins or tea cups
To prepare dashi, you will need one piece (about 5–6 inches) of konbu and 1 cup of bonito flakes. Clean the konbu by wiping it with a damp cloth. Then place it in a stockpot with 5 cups of cold water and heat over medium heat. Just before the water boils, remove it from the heat. Watch carefully—you do not want the water to boil or the dashi will become too strongly flavored. Allow to stand 5 minutes, remove the konbu and return the pot to medium heat. When the stock once again nears the boiling point, remove the pot from the heat and add the bonito flakes. When the flakes sink to the bottom of the pot, strain the dashi through cheesecloth or a fine-mesh strainer. Directions: In a large bowl, whisk together the dashi, eggs, and soy sauce. Season with the salt and pepper (to taste).
Skim the bubbles and the foam off the top. Heat a medium skillet over high heat, then add the oil and swirl to coat the pan. When the oil shimmers, add the maitakes and sauté until soft, about 6 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Evenly divide the cooked maitakes among the ramekins and sprinkle with the scallions.
Fill the ramekins with 4 oz of the egg mixture, making sure not to create any bubbles. Place the ramekin in a hot water bath and cover with aluminum foil. Fill a metal pan with enough boiling water so that the water goes halfway up the side of the ramekin. Place the pan in a 375˚ F oven for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325˚ F and cook for another 15–20 minutes.