White Miso Nabe

My sister was at the library a few weeks ago and struck up a conversation with my favorite librarian. She had been reading the blog and mentioned a cookbook that they had at the library which she really liked. It was checked out so my sister told her to go ahead and put a hold on it for me. When she got home my sister mentioned it to me, but she had forgotten what the cookbook was about, aside from Japanese food. I had to wait until the library called me to say it was in.

It turned out that the cookbook was Donabe: Classic and Modern Japanese Clay Pot Cooking, by Naoko Takei Moore and Kyle Connaughton. I had heard of donabe, traditional Japanese clay pots, but do not own one and have never cooked with one. It took me only a few pages to decide that this was a travesty, and I must get a donabe as soon as possible. They are so versatile, able to cook soups, stews, hot pots, and rice, as well as steam and smoke other foods. There are many different shapes and sizes, but I decided I wanted the big one that specializes in rice, since the book had delicious looking recipes for amazing rice dishes.

However, it is most unfortunate that I live in a seasonal area and the winter is an exceedingly lean time, one that doesn't do well with extravagant purchases like handmade clay pots. It seems that I shall have to wait until summer, when my wallet is a bit fatter, to fulfill this kitchen dream. But I wasn't going to let that stop me from trying one of the mouth watering recipes. I knew it would be better made in a clay pot, which conducts the heat differently, changing the flavors, but I couldn't wait until summer to try making a particular soup that had caught my eye. I opted instead to use my wonderful cast iron enameled pot, a favorite of mine.

The recipe was a hardy white miso soup with pork, carrot, cabbage, potato, and broccoli. I happened to have all those ingredients to hand, which I took as a sign from the culinary gods. After all, I have another wonderful hot pot cookbook, but most of those recipe call for ingredients I couldn't find in rural Maine if my life depended on it. But not this book, it has tons of recipes I could easily supply the ingredients for. The actual recipe called for saikyo, a type of sweet white miso, which I did not have. But I had regular, fairly sweet white miso, which I used instead.

One of my favorite things about Japanese soups is how often all the parts are cooked separately. First the vegetables are taken in turn and blanched, then the meat is sauteed in a pan, then the broth is made in the eventual pot. Then it's all arranged together, segmented into a lovely pattern and heated for a few minutes. This means that all the vegetables and meat retain their strong flavor, while being enhanced by the strong miso and tahini broth. It was so delicious with a bowl of fresh white rice. I can't wait to try it made in an actual donabe.

This recipe was very easy, the hardest part being julienning the carrots and potato, which is my least favorite cutting method. Also waiting for my pot of blanching water to boil, which took forever. I'm pretty sure that the pot I used was made out of whatever metal Sauron used to forge the one ring and is therefore impervious to heat (I get brownie points for my awesome Tolkien reference). Aside from those two things, this soup came together really quickly and was absolutely scrummy. I look forward to another delicious recipe from this new book and highly recommend it!

Until next time, may your tummy be full of tasty, warm soup!

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