Japanese Chicken and Root Vegetable Stew
This vegetable-rich stew is based on a Japanese nimono, a simmered dish flavored with kombu, soy sauce and dried shiitake mushroom caps. Although the ingredients may take some searching (check Japanese or Asian markets, or online), the cooking itself is no harder than the usual chicken soup, and the results are just as comforting. You can substitute other root vegetables for the ones called for here. Just make sure to add the sturdier chunks first (taro, celery root, burdock, kohlrabi, turnip, beets) so they have enough time to cook before adding the quicker-cooking ones (turnips, sweet potatoes, winter squash). If you want to make this vegetarian, you can leave out the chicken. It works equally well. Adding cubes of tofu or pieces of fish or seafood during the last few minutes of cooking is also a nice way to go.
- Serves: 4 persons
- 10to 12 dried Japanese or Chinese shiitake mushrooms (about 1 1/2 ounces)
- 1piece kombu, about 7 by 3 1/2 inches
- 1pound bone-in chicken thighs (2 to 3), skins removed if you prefer (or substitute bone-in breast meat)
- 4ounces taro root, celery root or potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 4ounces daikon or other radishes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (or use kohlrabi)
- 4ounces carrots, yellow beets or lotus root, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1cup sake
- 2 ½tablespoons Japanese soy sauce or tamari, more to taste
- 1teaspoon sugar
- ½teaspoon kosher salt
- 4ounces sweet potato, white turnip or winter squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- Rice wine vinegar, to taste
- Ground sansho pepper, shichimi togarashi or good smoky chile powder, for garnish
Step 1In a medium bowl, soak dried mushrooms in water overnight at room temperature. (Alternatively, you can cover mushrooms with hot water and let soak for 2 hours.)
Step 2Remove mushrooms, reserving the soaking liquid. Slice off stems and discard them. Cut the caps into 1/4-inch pieces.
Step 3Place kombu in a large pot, add mushrooms and their soaking liquid, and bring to a boil over high heat.
Step 4Meanwhile, make a drop lid (called an otoshibuta in Japanese) by folding foil into a round just smaller than the pot. Poke a few holes in the drop lid with a chopstick or knife.
Step 5As soon as liquid boils, remove kombu and discard or save to reuse. Add chicken, taro, radish, carrot, sake, soy sauce, sugar and salt to the pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, place drop lid directly on top of cooking vegetables and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 25 minutes.
Step 6Remove chicken from the pot and set aside. Add sweet potato to the pot, cover pot again with drop lid, and simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes, until vegetables are cooked through but not mushy.
Step 7Meanwhile, shred cooled chicken and divide among four bowls. Stir rice wine vinegar into stew, along with salt to taste, then ladle it into the bowls with the chicken. Garnish with sansho powder or shichimi togarashi and serve.