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Autumn Chestnut Rice

Typhoons and red dragonflies are harbingers of Japanese autumn. So are burnished red maple leaves and shinmai, the first rice of the season. Celebrate the majesty of fall and serve this bountiful rice dish, with chestnuts, sweet potatoes and shiitake mushrooms.

2 medium-size dried shiitake mushrooms
2 cups rinsed short- or medium-grain rice, preferably shinmai
2-1/3 cups water (use 3 tablespoons less water if using shinmai)
1 (7-oz.) jar chestnuts in heavy syrup, drained
1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons light soy sauce (usukuchi shoyu)
2 tablespoons mirin
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Radish sprouts (kaiwari daikon) (optional)

Preparation/cooking time: 1 hour

Soak mushrooms in a bowl of warm water 30 minutes. Squeeze dry; cut off stems. Dice mushrooms. In a 3-quart saucepan, combine rinsed rice and water; soak 15 minutes. Rinse chestnuts to remove syrup. Drain well; cut into quarters. Add mushrooms, chestnuts, sweet potatoes, salt, soy sauce and mirin to saucepan with rice; stir. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Simmer 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
Let stand, covered and undisturbed, 10 minutes. Carefully break up rice mixture with a dampened wooden rice paddle or spatula. Spoon rice mixture into serving bowls. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and radish sprouts.

Servings: 3 or 4