Mar 18, 2011

I wish I could cook a hot pot for everyone in Japan

I want to cook for all the people displaced, for all the people who have lost family and friends, for the people with no shelter. I want to give them comfort and strength and nourishment.

Since it is still quite cold in the worst hit regions, I would cook hot pot. Hot pot, or Nabe Hot Pot, is a Japanese comfort food and one-pot meal that is very soothing in cold weather. Japanese eat hotpot all winter long. It is a wonderful dish that goes back hundreds, possibly thousands, of years. Easy to put together. Incredibly delicious, rich, hearty and sustaining. Eating hot pot always warms me up and makes me feel wonderful. You may be familiar with shabu-shabu, which is a hot pot cooked at the table. There are many kinds of hotpot, shabu-shabu is only one of many.

Here are is a recipe for salmon miso hot pot, the most hearty and soothing variety to me. To everyone in Japan I want to say: take comfort, all is not lost, you have many friends all over the world, we want to help.

Warm, Soothing, Wonderful Miso Hot Pot with Salmon

4 cups dashi
1/2 cup white miso
1/4 cup mirin

1st layer
1 large onion, sliced
2 small idaho potatoes, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, and thinly sliced
1/2 head green or savoy cabbage, cut into bite size chunks

2 oz harusame, or bean thread noodles, soaked in warm water for 10 minutes
1 package tofu, cut into 8 pieces
6 oz shitake mushrooms, stems removed, sliced

8 oz salmon filet, sliced, with skin on or off as to your preference

final layer
4 scallions, sliced
8 oz baby spinach leaves

Prepare the broth by combining the dashi, miso and mirin in a bowl. whisk to blend.

Start layering your pot. first place the onion slices, then potatoes and cabbage. Pour in the broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Once the pot boils, cover with a lid and lower the heat to medium. Allow pot to simmer for 4 minutes. Remove the lid and place the tofu, softened bean thread noodles and sliced shitakes on top of the previous ingredients, this time keep the like ingredients clustered together, rather than scattering them over the pan. This will keep the dish very neat looking and beautiful when it comes time to serve. Simmer for 4 to 5 minutes more. Now add in the salmon and cover. Lift the lid frequently and poke the salmon into the liquid, to allow for even cooking. The salmon will take about 5 minutes more of simmering. Now finish the dish by adding a clump of spinach and the scallions in the center. Allow to simmer 1 to 2 minutes more as you press the spinach into the pot.

To serve, bring the entire pot to the table and allow everyone to ladle their favorite ingredients into their bowls.

Dear Japan! The events of the last week, the triple disaster:earthquake, tsunami, nuclear damage, have left us devastated. It is hard to believe things can deteriorate so quickly, so unavoidably. And yet, you are such a strong and resilient country, you have recovered many times before, from the Kanto quake which destroyed Yokohama and half of Tokyo in 1923, to the devastation of WWII. I have great faith in the Japanese people to come back better, stronger than before. Please help Japan if you can.

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