It's unlike me to visit a grocery store looking for a specific ingredient. It's one of the reasons I don't like using recipes. This means I usually just go and peruse the produce, meat and seafood sections to see what looks good. After finding something that leaps out at me, I'll round out the basket with other things that will go with whatever it was that got me all excited.
Today however, I went to Wholefoods after work in search of Chanterelle Mushrooms. You see, the fine folks at Marx Foods are having another cooking competition. The secret ingredient? You guessed, it, Chanterelle Mushrooms.
When thinking about what to do with the Chanterelles I ran through the usual gamut of cream sauces, pastas, sautes, and soups one thinks about when you think "Chanterelle". But since none of these seemed particularly inspired and Chanterelles are mostly about texture, with a very subtle flavour, I didn't want to do something that would overpower either.
Most tempura you get here is like beer battered fish and chips. Not that there's anything wrong with beer battered fish (or beer battered anything for that matter), but it's just not tempura. Tempura should be fresh seafood or vegetables with a thin coating of batter, not the other way around. The hot oil enriches and concentrates the natural flavours of whatever you're frying while the delicate batter encases it in a crisp jacket that's neither greasy nor heavy.
The fried mushrooms are fantastic sprinkled with a bit of smoked sea salt, but I took it one step further and used them to top a steaming bowl of soba noodles. The tempura adds depth to the broth and while it will loose some of its crispness, the batter soaks up the dashi giving it an effect not unlike the slice of baguette on top of French onion soup.
- The trick here is to make the broth first, then have the noodles and tempura done at exactly the same time. If the tempura sits for more than a minute after coming out of the oil, it will get soggy, if the noodles sit for more than a minute after coming out of the pot they will get soft and clump together.
- First make the soup by putting the dashi, mirin, soy sauce and salt in a saucepan and bringing to a boil. Keep it warm over low heat.
- Prep the Chanterelles by cleaning them thoroughly. A professional chef would shoot me if they heard me telling you to wash them, but I find these particular mushrooms to be very sandy, and there's no better way to ruin a dish than biting into a clump of grit. I usually give them a good rinse making sure to clean out the gills then let them dry on paper towels for about an hour.
- Boil some water for the noodles. Get a wire rack ready for the tempura by covering it with a layer of paper towels. Make sure you have some ice cold water on hand and that the bowl your going to mix the batter in along with the flour is nice and cold (I put them in the freezer for 10 minutes).
- In a cast iron or other heavy bottomed pan, add about 1" of oil. Heat the oil until it reaches 340 degrees then quickly make the batter. For the batter, you want to whisk the egg yolk into 1 cup of ice cold water then dump it all into the cold flour then gently stir. The key here is that everything is very cold and that you don't stir it too much (having lumps is fine). The batter should be like thin pancake batter, if it's too thick, add a few more tablespoons of ice water.
- Using chopsticks (or a fork if you must), quickly dip each mushroom in the batter shaking off the excess (remember you want a thin coat) and carefully drop into the hot oil. If the mushrooms are small, cluster a few mushrooms side-by-side in the oil so they stick together. They should be crisp and float when they are done. For the other veggies I usually throw in a few green beans along with the onions to make a thin round lattice. Sprinkle the finished tempura with sea salt.
- To serve the soba, just put the noodles in 2 bowls, top with green onions, pour the soup over the noodles, then top with the tempura and yuzu rind.