Congratulations to our 2016 winner, Justine Kmiecik!
“What's cuter than making little mushrooms out of mushrooms?” That’s the question that Justine Kmiecik, winner of our annual recipe contest, posed on her food blog, Night Shift Lunch Box, and that’s pretty much the same remark that we made when we saw the recipe she submitted in response to our contest.
How cute, the testers exclaimed when they saw Justine’s Mushroom Sushi 'Mushrooms', plump with a shiitake and leek stuffing in their stipe and topped with a shiitake cap that had been simmered in oyster sauce.
Cute is one thing, declared one taster; delicious is another. One bite, and all the tasters agreed that cute and delicious were synonymous in this case.
Some wondered out loud about how difficult it might be to create the perfect little stuffed sushi base. Simple, replied the chef; it takes only minutes to put the appetizer together.
One word of caution. The recipe suggests that these 6 pieces serve 6 people as an appetizer. Not so, based on our experience! Most of our tasters enthusiastically scooped 2 pieces off the serving dish onto their hors d'oeuvre plate, while coyly keeping an eye on the serving dish to see if and when seconds would be available. Our advice is to prepare 2-3 pieces per person. Yes, they are that delicious and that easy to make!
When we asked Justine if we might print a little about her on our website, she modestly forwarded the following information:
Justine recently moved to Washington state with her husband, and has a background in plant and environmental biology. She ran a biotechnology startup in the energy space in North Carolina, and is passionate about gardening, art, and cooking.
Mushroom Sushi "Mushrooms"
½ cup uncooked medium or short grain white rice
1 teaspoon sesame oil, and some for the cling-wrap
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt, divided
6 fresh shiitake mushrooms with stems
1 small leek (just the white and light green parts), chopped
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon white pepper powder
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
- First, cook the white rice. You could use actual sushi (sweet) rice, but regular medium-grain white rice works just fine. Right after it’s cooked, quickly mix in the rice vinegar, sugar, and a half teaspoon of salt. Set it aside to cool for a bit.
- Rinse or wipe off dirt from the shiitake mushrooms, and cut off the stems. Chop the stems up into small pieces. Heat a small pan with some vegetable oil on the stove on medium heat. Throw in the mushroom stems, chopped leeks, garlic powder, white pepper powder, and another half teaspoon of salt. Cook until the leek and stem bits are softened.
- Now, take a piece of plastic cling-wrap and rub a tiny bit of sesame oil on it in a circle. We’re going to treat the cling-wrap kind of like a seaweed wrapper in sushi—start patting on some of the prepared rice and forming a nice, flat circle about a quarter inch thick. Scoop a little bit of the leek and stem mixture into the center of the rice circle.
- Gather up the ends of the cling wrap and TWIST! It should start to form a little rice ball. The key is to squeeze just enough to get the rice to hold together, but not so much that you make it mushy.
- Once you get a feel for it, you can start to shape it however you like—I started rolling it a bit to get it very slightly cylindrical. Unwrap it carefully, and place it on a plate. Repeat five more times.
- Don't forget about the caps! Heat a pan with oil over medium heat, and add the caps from the shiitake. Add in the oyster sauce and get the caps coated in the sauce. Move the mushrooms around for about 15-20 minutes so they’re fully cooked and soft on both sides.
- Top each stuffed rice ball with a shiitake cap. I added a few homegrown sprouts to the dish, but sesame seeds or herbs would also look beautiful.