One of my favorite proteins to cook is clams. They’re juicy, succulent, full of beautiful, ocean-y brine, and they lend themselves well to flavoring anything that they’re cooked in because of that. For this particular dish, I wanted to make something that captures the delicate nature of seafood in general, while packing a huge punch of umami. So naturally, I went Japanese with this dish. It features asari(also known as manilla) clams, roasted mushrooms, in this case, I went with shimeji and baby king oysters, although I did envision this dish with matsutakes, so keep that in mind. I’m pairing the clams and mushrooms with a leek-mushroom dashi, pearl barley, and poached leeks. The flavors are really simple, but I wanted to present them in an elegant format that allows the seafood to really shine first.
Makes 6 servings:
For the dashi:
1/4 cup lightly packed katsuboshi
1 sheet kombu
2 1/2 cups warm water
3 dried shiitake mushrooms
a pinch of salt
Simmer together ingredients until mushrooms have plumped. Press through a sieve lined with a cheesecloth to remove all solids. Keep dashi in the refrigerator.
For the barley:
1/4 cup pearl barley
1/2 cup dashi
1/4 cup water
a pinch of salt
Simmer together ingredients in a pot with the lid on until the pearl barley has tenderized, about 20 minutes. Allow to sit in the liquid off heat to allow the barley to absorb more dashi.
For the mushrooms:
1 cup baby king oyster mushrooms or sliced matsutake mushrooms
1 cup shimeji mushrooms
3 tablespoons miso paste
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon mirin
Roast mushrooms on a lined sheet tray at 425 degrees F for 20 minutes. Mix together the other ingredients and simmer the mushrooms in that liquid for 5-10 minutes.
For the leeks:
1 leek, rinsed and sliced into 1 inch logs
Bring salted water to a simmer. Blanch the leeks until they are soft, about 3-4 minutes, then shock in the cold dashi.
For the clams:
1 pound asari or littleneck clams, rinsed in salted water at least 5 times
In a pot, bring the dashi to a simmer and add in your clams. Cover and allow the clams to slowly open up, fishing them out of the liquid as they open. Strain the dashi at the end through another sieve lined with a cheesecloth to remove any remaining impurities.
In a bowl, start with a bed of the pearl barley. Garnish the edges with the clams and mushrooms, and top with the leeks and edible flower petals.