Even though Spring has finally made its presence known with sunny heat waves and 80+ temps driving eager gardeners to ravage the local nurseries in anticipation of summer, Mother Nature has pulled the rug out from under our feet with highs in the 50s and rain, rain, rain. Strangely I’m pretty happy cuz
there’s a reason why I chose to live some place where it rains 9 months out of the year it’s still warm enough to be puttering about outside and there’s nothing like a hot, hearty soupy stew to warm up my chilled bones. This is another delicious cold weather dish from Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan, but this time highlighting the town of Ishikari (a suburb of Sapporo). The Ishikari River is the largest in Hokkaido, draining into the Sea of Japan, and before you fall asleep from this little geographical side trip it’s the reason why Ishikari is known for its yummy salmon and herring. Originally, this type of 鍋物 nabemono (stew cooked in a 土鍋 donabe clay hotpot) was called salmon hotpot but since it originated from Ishikari, when it was brought over to Tokyo, the geographical name stuck. Since Hokkaido is known for its fertile agricultural areas as well as its colder weather, dairy products like milk or butter will often make an appearance in the local cuisine. I find that the flavorful miso-dashi broth really imparts a lot of flavor to the hearty potatoes and rich salmon while the onions add a wonderful sweetness to the broth.
You’ll often find noodles or rice with nabemono usually to be eaten as part of the end of the meal also known as 締め shime. As the nabe continues to cook down, the broth becomes concentrated as well as picking up all those yummy flavors from your succulent ingredients so in order to take advantage of those scrumptious dregs, it’s common to eat the shime with steamed rice or noodles like udon or 春雨 harusame (dried potato starch noodles) or 白滝 shirataki (almost calorie-free chewy noodles made from 蒟蒻 konnyaku also called devil’s tongue). You can also use the shime to add extra oomph to your お粥 okayu or 雑炊 zosui.
Tricks of the trade:
1) Since we’re simmering potatoes in yummy dashi and onion flavored broth, beveling the sharp edges, also known as 面取り mentori helps to keep them from crumbling as they bump around and absorb that yummy broth while turning oh so tender. I find that it’s faster with small slippery cubes of potato to bevel them with my trusty ceramic vegetable peeler but you can also do it with your knife as well.
2) Why add the miso add the very end? You’ll notice I also did this when making miso ramen with scallops. Boiling miso makes it lose its flavor so if you want all that umami-rich nutty salty flavor, scoop out a bit of your broth when you’re done cooking and mix the paste in so that you can easily mix it into the rest of the broth 🙂
4 c (1 liter) 昆布出し konbudashi stock
1/4 c (59 ml) 本みりん mirin
1 tbsp butter
1 small sweet onion, in 1/4-inch rings
2 medium-sized (~1 lb) waxy boiling potatoes (I used red potatoes), peeled and in 2-inch cubes
1/2 lb firm tofu, in 3/4-inch thick x 2-inch square slices
1 tbsp canola oil
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/4 of a cabbage, in 1/2-inch slices
4 shiitake mushrooms, stemmed with shallow X’s cut across the caps
3 tbsp 白味噌 shiromiso (white miso)
2 packets fresh udon noodles (found in the refrigerator section of Japanese and well-stocked Asian markets) **if cooking gluten-free substitute steamed rice, shirataki noodles, or harusame noodles
2 green onions, green parts cut on an angle in 2-inch pieces
12 oz salmon, skin removed and in 1-inch chunks
1/2 packet enoki mushrooms
1 bundle 春菊 shungiku (chrysanthemum leaves) if you can find it or 1 c baby spinach
In a large donabe or ~4 quart pot bring stock and mirin to a boil. Add onion, butter, and potatoes and simmer till potatoes are firm but can be pierced with a fork or chopstick.
While potatoes are simmering, grill tofu. You can also simply simmer the tofu in the broth but I like the smokiness grilling adds. Grease a grill pan with canola oil and sesame oil and heat till oil is smoking. Grill tofu, not moving it for 2 minutes so you get nice grill marks. Flip and grill other side. Remove from grill and set aside.
Add cabbage and shiitake to the stock and simmer till cabbage starts to wilt ~3-4 minutes. Scoop out a ladleful of stock and mix miso paste into ladle till smooth. Stir miso mixture into stock. Add noodles, green onions, and salmon and simmer till salmon becomes opaque ~2 minutes. Add enoki mushrooms and shungiku or baby spinach. Remove from heat and serve at the table from the pot. Makes 5 servings and some toasty Portlandians 😀
For the shime at the end of the meal, boil udon noodles for 2 minutes or serve with rice, boiled shirataki noodles, or boiled harusame noodles, or save to add to yourzosui the next day if eating gluten-free.