Spinach and mushroom filling for savory mochi buns
Don’t be intimidated by the number of ingredients here. This is a quick saute of some old standards that go together quite well. The flavors here are great – bright acidity from the lemon and balsamic, an earthy pungency from the spinach, meaty oyster mushrooms, crisp wood ear, and a good dose of sherry to round it all out. We grabbed two spoons and ate the left-over filling directly from the bowl. Don’t judge.
Wood ear mushrooms
3 cloves garlic
Splash of dry sherry
3 tbs. butter
1 tbs. olive oil
1 cup packed spinach leaves, washed, stems removed
¼ cup fresh onion chopped
1 tbs. balsamic vinegar
Splash of lemon juice
Pinch of salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
Grab your mushrooms (you can use whatever types you’d prefer but we chose our particular mix for their balanced flavors and textures). Clean the mushrooms thoroughly. I know maybe you’ve heard to just give them a good brushing, but you DO know what mushrooms grow in right? Well, I just can’t get over that so we give them a good wash. Truth is that a short amount of time in water is not going to cause your mushrooms to absorb so much moisture that the flavor and texture will change. Just don’t go soaking them. That would be bad. Heat a third of your butter in a pan over medium heat while you slice up your mushrooms. Saute them in batches with a bit of black pepper, adding butter as needed. Secret here? Yes Julia Child said it and I’ll say it again: “Don’t crowd the mushrooms.” Mushrooms get a lovely golden brown crustiness when you allow them sufficient room to cook in the pan. Why doesn’t this happen if you throw the whole lot in there at the same time? The answer is moisture. Your mushrooms release water when placed into the hot butter. Too much moisture in the pan and you literally steam the mushrooms in their own juices. Not an ideal environment for browning. So don’t crowd. Once you’ve got the mushrooms golden, throw them all back in the pan and splash a bit of dry sherry over them. Toss them to coat and let them mellow for a minute or two over medium heat. Set aside.
Heat olive oil in the pan and give the onion a fine chop, along with the garlic (we are lazy and almost ALWAYS use a press). Cook onion in oil until fragrant and golden then add the garlic. Throw the spinach in with the salt and lemon juice (squeeze maybe half the juice from half a lemon) and the balsamic into the mix and give it a few minutes to meld. Don’t overcook the spinach as it tends to get mushy and take on a harsh flavor.
Go ahead and mix up the spinach and the mushrooms. Smell their heady fragrance. Now try not to eat it all before the rest of dinner has been prepped…