Haute pots

What did I do after Gourmet shut down? I sold off most of the stuff I wrote for them that never ran, and I emailed everyone else I know and asked them to hire me. Then I got a drink. Speaking of hiring me, did you know I’m available to speak at your event? It’s true–see here. This little book review didn’t really fit anywhere else, so I’m posting it for you.

Japanese Hot Pots book
Buy the book

Have you ever had to listen to a cook hold forth on the importance of homemade stock, simmered for hours? The foundation of cuisine, and so on? Well, if you run into that guy, tell him I made a richly flavored soup the other night; the stock consisted of three ingredients and took one minute to make.

The soup, Pork Miso Hot Pot, was from Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat’s new book Japanese Hot Pots. The stock contains red miso, kombu, and water. If they made commercials for recipes, this one would feature a woman explaining with a wink that it only tastes like it took you all day to make it. Shh! Your guests will never know that the whole soup, loaded with meat, tofu, vegetables, mushrooms, and noodles, is done in half an hour. (I used presliced pork from a Japanese supermarket, but if I’d had to slice the pork myself, that would have taken, what, five more minutes?)

It’s a one-pot dinner that requires no side dish other than a little plain rice or noodles to soak up any remaining broth, and the cooking instructions basically go like this: put the stuff in a pot. Boil it. Serve.

“Hot pots cook very fast,” explain the authors. “Western stews must slowly tease the essence out of raw ingredients. Hot pots rely on fermented and dried ingredients such as miso, soy sauce, and the elements that make up dashi.” Beneficial microbes have already teased the essence out of these ingredients.

To be fair, some of the fifty recipes in the book–say, the Hakata Chicken Hot Pot–call for homemade chicken stock. Traditional Japanese chicken stock? That’s got to be a project. Let’s see…Ono and Salat’s recipe calls for chicken bones and water. It simmers for thirty whole minutes. I’ll let them explain again: “The concept is to create pure chicken flavor that can be layered with other ingredients simmering in it.”

And Japanese food has a reputation for being hard to make?

Pork Miso Hot Pot (Buta Nabe)
Adapted from Japanese Hot Pots, by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat
Ten Speed Press, 2009
Serves 4

4 cups water
1/2 cup red miso
2 (6-inch) pieces kombu
1/2 pound napa cabbage, sliced
1 negi (Japanese leek), sliced on an angle into 2-inch pieces
7 ounces (200-gram package) enoki mushrooms, trimmed and pulled apart
6 ounces oyster mushrooms, trimmed and pulled apart
1 (7-ounce) package shirataki noodles, well rinsed, strained, and quartered
1/2 package (about 1/2 pound) firm tofu, cut into 4 pieces
1 pound boneless pork shoulder, sliced 1/8 inch thick
Shichimi togarashi, for accent

  1. Prepare the broth by combining the water with the miso, whisking to blend well; reserve.

  2. Place the kombu on the bottom of a hot pot, and add the cabbage over it. Add the negi, enoki mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, shirataki, and tofu on top of the cabbage, arranging each ingredient in a separate, neat bunch. Pour in the reserved broth.

  3. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Uncover the pot and add the pork. Cover the pot again and bring to a boil over high heat once more. Decrease the heat to medium and simmer until the pork cooks through, about 5 minutes.

  4. Transfer the hot pot to the dining table. Serve the ingredients together with the broth in small bowls. Accent with the shichimi togarashi.

2 thoughts on “Haute pots

  1. wasabi prime

    This book looks lovely. I think I may have to pick up a couple of copies — one for a holiday gift for an aunt and one for myself! My grandparents did something similar to this; in lean times they could just pull something from their garden, miso paste was always available, and the family could have a simple but hearty meal.

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