Daniel Patterson's restaurant, Coi, has developed a series of dishes all called "Earth and Sea," each celebrating the unique flavors that come about when the rocky, western coastal landscape meets the Pacific ocean. This version in the Coi cookbook features a silky tofu mousse topped with earthy thickened broth, pickled turnips, yuba, and seaweed. The key component of the dish is enhanced dashi—a blend of vegetable and mushroom stocks that is spiked with kombu and katsuobushi just like the traditional Japanese stock. After straining the dashi, it is thickened with agar, transforming it into a broth that is halfway in between liquid and gel. It's the perfect texture in which to suspend seaweed and yuba, giving the dish an appearance of an underwater photograph.
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Today, we'll break down the process for the dashi, and tomorrow will finish up with the mousse and accompaniments.
Why I picked this recipe: The photograph of the dish in the book looks like magic. I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could pull it off at home.
What worked: Combining earthy mushroom stock with salty, savory kombu and katsuobushi is a smart move, making for the most umami-rich stock I've ever tasted.
What didn't: I had a hard time getting the agar-thickened stock to blend smooth in my blender. It mostly sorts itself out when the broth is re-warmed (stay tuned for tomorrow's post), but the struggle was a bit disconcerting. If you've got a high-powered blender, use it.
Suggested tweaks: If don't care to make both stocks from scratch, you could probably get away with using a high-quality store-bought vegetable stock. Make the mushroom stock from scratch, though, as it is the primary flavor component in the final broth. You can find kombu, katuobushi (or bonito), and agar powder in Asian grocery stores. (There really aren't any substitutes.)