With the publication of Tadashi Ono's and my cookbook, Japanese Hot Pots, coming up on September 22nd (soon!), I've naturally been thinking a lot about these irresistable one pot meals. While fall and winter are typically prime hot pot season, some of them are perfect for year-round dining, like the fantastic dish pictured above. This chicken sukiyaki recipe was inspired by the one served at Kozue restaurant in the Park Hyatt in Tokyo, where I spent time training this past spring. Chef Ooe of Kozue is a huge fan of hot pots -- and has some of the most beautiful donabe I've ever seen. His chicken sukiyaki is a light, elegant, and social dish that's extremely popular at his restaurant. Here's my version, which is a snap to prepare, perfect for a summer eve, and pairs beautifully with a crisp, frosty beer:
Serves two (double or quadruple as desired):
For the warishita, or hot pot broth:
1 cup dashi
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup sake
1 tablespoon sugar, preferably unbleached cane sugar
1/2 burdock root
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 chicken leg and thigh, boned and cut into
4 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and cut on an angle
1/2 cake firm tofu, cut into 4 pieces
1/2 cake konnyaku, sliced thin
1 Japanese negi, or two large scallions, sliced on an angle into 2 inch pieces
1 bunch mitsuba, cut into 2-inch pieces, including stems
1 package fresh-frozen, uncooked ramen noodles
To prepare the warishita, combine the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat and set aside. (Taste the warishta at this point, and adjust the savory or sweet dimensions, if desired -- up to you.)
If you're using a donabe, fill with water and place over medium heat to preheat it. (An enameled cast iron pot like Le Crueset or Staub works great for hot pot, too. If you're using one, you can skip this heating water inside step).
Prepare the burdock by first scraping with the back of a knife to remove the outside brown layer and reveal the white flesh. Cut the burdock like you're sharpening the end of a pencil to produce thin shavings (a cut called sasagaki). Soak the shavings in a bowl of water to prevent discoloring. Set aside.
Once the donabe is hot, carefully spill out the water and wipe dry with a kitchen towel. Place over high heat and add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the burdock and chicken in separate, neat bunches and brown for about 2 minutes. Add the shiitake, tofu and konnyaku, and cook for 2 minutes more. Pour in the warishita, making sure not to overfill the donabe, and cover.
As soon as the liquid boils (you'll see steam escaping), reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through (take a piece out and check). Uncover, add the negi and cook for 1 minute. Add the mitsuba and cook for 1 minute more. Remove from heat, transfer the donabe to the dining table, and serve.
After dining on the hot pot, return the donabe to the stove, along with any remaining broth and ingredients inside it. Add any leftover warishita you have and bring the liquid to a boil over high heat. Add the ramen noodles (you can add them frozen) and heat until the noodles cook through. Serve in individual bowls -- an absolutely delicious "shime" or finish to the hot pot meal.