Matsutake Mushroom Risotto

Matsutake Mushroom Risotto

I’ve gone on about how the appearance of Matsutake Mushrooms are the harbinger of autumn in Japan. But the season is fleeting, and their disappearance from store shelves spells the coming of winter ahead.

Last week after the FoodBuzz Festival, I had the pleasure of wandering around the Mission district in San Francisco. After peering into Delfina Pizzeria like a stray dog, and indulging in three scoops of ice cream at Bi-Rite Creamery, I was drawn into the Bi-Rite market across the street for a peek. The moment I stepped across the threshold, I knew I was in trouble. It’s a “gourmet” grocery store, but unlike most high-end places, they seem to have enough turnover that everything was incredibly fresh and relatively inexpensive.

As I meandered through the well stocked produce section, my eager eyes flitted from tuber, to legume to green, like a kid in a candy store. My attention deficit came to an abrupt halt when my eyes hit the mushroom basket. Tucked away in a little corner next to the Chantrelles were four mushrooms that looked suspiciously like Matsutakes (pine mushrooms). I picked up one of the gorgeous thick-stemmed specimens and took a deep protracted breath and was greeted by the damp cedar-like aroma of my favorite fungus.

Matsutake mushrooms for risotto

Then I saw the price…. $19.99/lbs! Was this a typo? Maybe they meant per ounce? Or perhaps this was a cheap knockoff of unknown origin? And yet there they were, like four pristine eggs, waiting to unfurl their splendid caps and release the most heavenly perfume a detritus-eating organism could possibly emanate.

Before my brain had time to process this find, my hands had greedily added them all into a brown paper bag. That’s when the produce guy commented that this was the last batch of the season.

Winter’s a comin’ and this called for something a little heartier than the usual consommés and rice dishes I make with matsutake. Something rich and buttery with al dente pearls of rice that stick to your teeth. Something deeply comforting and nutty and yet mild enough to allow the vibrant earthy flavors of the Matsutake to shine through. I was craving a risotto.

Matsutake Risotto with fall leaves

I ended up going with a classic risotto recipe, substituting in kombu dashi for it’s mellow flavor and high glutamic acid concentration. I used sake instead of white wine to reduce the acidity of the finished risotto, and I topped the whole thing with the Matsutake caps and Japanese breadcrumbs toasted in browned butter.

The result was nothing short of divine. The risotto was rich, toothsome and creamy with three layers of umami coming from the mushrooms, dashi and cheese. The mushrooms on top brought the aroma of Matsutake to your olfactory glands and and the toasted panko added a light crunch on top that bursts into a toasty pool of browned butter with each bite.

Matsutake Mushroom Risotto with Autumn Leaves

Matsutake Mushroom Risotto

serves 4 as an appetizer
4 cups kombu dashi
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tbs minced shallots
6 ounces fresh matsutake mushrooms thoroughly cleaned
1 tablespoon + 1 tablespoon unsalted cultured butter
1 tablespoon + 1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cups sake
5 oz Carnaroli rice
2 tablespoons panko (Japanese bread crumbs)

1/2 ounce parmigiano reggiano, grated
1 tablespoon unsalted cultured butter

Prepartion: Soak an 8″x 2″ piece of dashi kombu (dashi kelp) in cold water overnight or reconstitute powdered dashi in water according to the package directions to make 4 cups of kombu dashi. Put the dashi and salt into a saucepan and heat until steam rises from the surface. Cut the stem from the cap of the mushrooms. Julienne the stems into matchsticks. Slice the caps into 1/8″ thick pieces.

Matsutake Mushroom and Carnaroli Rice

Heat a large non-stick frying pan with 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil until hot. Add the shallots and julienned matsutake stems until the butter is browned and the mushrooms take on a light brown color. Add the rice and fry for a minute, stiring to coat each grain of rice.

Add the sake and stir until it has evaporated, then add two ladles of dashi and stir constantly until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Continue adding dashi 1 ladle at a time, stirring constantly until the rice has reached a texture you’re happy with. Stop at about 3 1/2 cups for al dente risotto.

While the risotto is cooking, heat a second pan and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Fry the matsutake caps until they are browned and season lightly with salt and pepper. Transfer the mushroom to a plate, then add the remaining tablespoon of butter. Add the panko and toast the breadcrumbs in the butter, stirring constantly until they are golden brown. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

When the risotto is done, add the cheese and butter and stir until they are incorporated. Taste for salt and more if necessary. Plate the risotto and top with the sauteed matsutake caps and toasted bread crumbs.

  • Gina

    Risotto is one of my favorite dishes. I’ve never cooked with matsutake mushrooms before – perhaps this recipe will inspire me!

    Marc, do you find that cultured butter gives you a smoother texture in your risotto? I’ve always used regular butter, but using cultured butter makes sense.

    • Anonymous

      It’s less about the texture and more about the flavor. Cultured butter
      is produced with fermented cream, so it has different flavor compounds
      that adds a wonderful creamy flavor. When cultured butter is browned
      it gives it a nutty savory taste that I love.

  • LimeCake

    What a steal! I sheepishly admit I would’ve grabbed these in a heartbeat had I seen them like you had! This risotto is definitely a fine way to appreciate your bounty.

  • Nancy-The Wife of a Dairyman

    What a great find! Your dish looks like it would taste fantastic and of course I just love your photography:)

  • Steph @ okie dokie artichokie

    I have to say, aside from the sexy-as-hell-looking mushrooms, I love your approach to photography. Elegant simplicity at its highest. Wonderful.

  • Jennifer Perillo

    Marc, I love how you stayed to true to the culinary mastery of risotto, yet gave it an Asian twist. A marriage of one culture’s technique and another’s flavors. Job well done, now when can I come over for dinner?

  • Karen

    OOO Lucky you!! Looks DELICIOUS!

  • Spinachtiger

    I love what I call fusion dishes. Would be good with a dash of nori sea salt too. I so wanted to go to Delfina Pizza but never made it there.

  • Colloquial Cook

    Wow! [faint]
    Wonderful Marc! You make me crave risotto (or is it the incessant drizzling outside? Who cares!)
    Are those your mom’s leaves?

  • bigfatcook

    Hey!! Your risotto looks really nice!! :)) I like everything with mushrooms:)

    Greets from BFC!!!

  • the indolent cook

    Yummy! As a side note, those matsutake mushrooms are probably from China, hence the cheap price. Probably only matsutake experts can identify the difference anyway. Would love to bump into some real matustake at my local store, regardless of origin!

    • Anonymous

      They were sourced from Washington state (at least that’s what the sign said).

  • Steph@Lick My Spoon

    *swoon* love the japanese take on this — use of dashi and sake — brilliant. glad you struck gold at bi-rite!

  • Rich

    I have never tried matsutake mushrooms before, and to be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in the stores – but rest assured, my eyes will be peeled now. That risotto looks delicious!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Rich, they can be tough to find, but they usually show up
      during the month of October in upscale groceries as well as Japanese
      grocery stores.

  • Danielle

    I knew I shouldn’t have hesitated when I saw them at our Farmers’ Market and was told to use them in soups! This is what holds me back from trying new mushrooms – not knowing their flavors or best way to prepare them – gotta start bookmarking recipes like yours.

  • Maria

    That risotto sounds divine and your photos are absolutely gorgeous.

  • Mike Pierce

    I bought some beautiful Matsutake at Monterey Market in Berkeley this weekend ($12.99 lb!). My daughter came by and made risotto with them. Next time you’re in the Bay Area you’ll have to check them out – they almost always have 20+ varieties of mushrooms at any time and their high turnover means high quality and low prices.

    • Anonymous

      Nice, I’ll have to go check that place out. $12.99/lbs is a steal!
      What beer did you pair with it? I was thinking the blonde might go

  • Elpi

    I really like your photos, so real. I almost touch your recipe lol I am hungry

  • angi c

    What a great idea to sub in dashi and sake for a Japanese-style risotto! You’ve inspired me to make one too, although I probably won’t be using matsutake since you bought them all! Maybe just a mix of some shimeji and shitake…

  • Cheryl in Silicon Valley

    Hi Marc,

    I was just in San Jose’s Japantown and (don’t swoon, Marc) one of my favorite markets had about twenty packages of these mushrooms for $19.99 a pound. I’ll definitely try your luscious dish within the next day or two. Thanks for all of the deliciousness!

    • Anonymous

      I used to live in SJ’s J-town, brings back old memories:-)

  • injection mold

    This is truly beautiful and so delicate. I would love to taste how lavender and matcha go together! Will be voting for you Marc

  • injection mold

    I was just in San Jose’s Japantown and (don’t swoon, Marc) one of my favorite markets had about twenty packages of these mushrooms for $19.99 a pound. I’ll definitely try your luscious dish within the next day or two. Thanks for all of the deliciousness!

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  • Rose

    I love this recipe! I live out in the country side in S.Oregon and a few years ago stumbled upon Matsutake’s while mushroom hunting in the hill’s across the street from our house.. found almost too many to eat! Note I said “almost”. Matsu’s deep fried in tempura is my favorite, however this recipe comes in a close second. Thanks.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Wow, I’m jealous! Matsutakes in Japan cost about $100 per mushroom, so I have to use them sparingly (or buy imports from the US, which still run about $30 per shroom).

  • Rose

    Wow $100 per mushroom is steep! I’m guessing the veil has to still be attached at that price? We found about 10 lbs 2 days ago and most of them with the veil still covering the gills. Not bad for just an hour of hunting. I know that I could get tons more but then I’d have to figure out what to do with them all.. I’m going to make your risotto tonight.. But I’m curious as to what your favorite recipe is for matsutakes?

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Because they’re such a rare treat over here, I usually like to prepare them pretty simply. Matsutake Gohan is probably my favorite followed closely by Dobin Mushi (literally: steamed in teapot). This is made by adding konbu dashi, shrimp or chicken, and some veggies to a teapot with matsutake and steaming the whole thing, with a squeeze of sudachi at the end. Makes a marvelous broth and then you can eat the stuff in the teapot after you’re done with the broth. Oh, and lately I’ve been doing a matsutake carbonara based on this recipe: but with fresh baby anchovies instead of pancetta and with matsutakes sautéed in butter.

      • Rose

        Thanks for the idea’s Marc! I’ll try them.. the matsutake carbonara sounds especially good since I’m on an Italian kick these days!


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