You know that old adage, you can't judge a book by it's cover? Well, when it comes to cookbooks the rule might not be so hard and fast. Case in point, the stunning Salmon Hot Pot that graces the cover of Japanese Hot Pots by chef Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat. One look at this perfectly composed dish of salmon, tofu, mushrooms, and roe and you'll probably come to the conclusion that the recipes within are going to be pretty good.
Before I set out to replicate this salmon hot pot my previous experience with making Japanese food was limited to a few attempts at rolling sushi at home to varying degrees of success. I was a little concerned that replicating the hot pot would prove to be something of a challenge. As it turns out, the recipe was very straightforward and the resulting hot pot was insanely delicious, satisfying, and will certainly making a repeat performance some time very soon.
The introduction to Japanese Hot Pots claims that making hot pots at home is easy and after making this recipe I whole-heartedly agree. Since I am not in possession of a traditional Japanese nabe, my Dutch oven would have to do. I lined the bottom with sliced onions, potatoes, and cabbage, poured in the broth and brought it up to a boil. The next step is to artfully arrange little piles of the vegetables and tofu on the surface of the broth, sure it all gets mixed up, but the initial wow factor of the presentation is totally worth it. After a few minutes of simmering the slices of salmon are layered over top of the whole thing, the heat from the broth cooks the salmon to varying degrees. I cooked the salmon through to a creamy pink but next time I think that I would prefer it a bit on the rarer side. The final step is to dish the soup out into individual bowls and top it with a generous spoonful salmon roe, this step is optional it adds yet another intensely pleasing flavor and texture to the mix.
This salmon hot pot was a big, steaming pot of wonderful, salty and fishy in all of the right ways. The addition of potatoes and cabbage transformed it from a mere bowl of something substantial and soul-satisfying. I suppose the highest compliment that I can give to this recipe is that although it technically should serve four people (generously), my hot pot was happily polished off by myself and one other person. I can definitely foresee a happy fall and winter of hot pots this year.
Win 'Japanese Hot Pots'
As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Japanese Hot Pots to give away this week.
- 4 cups dashi
- 3/4 cup shiro miso
- 1/4 cup mirin
- 1 medium Spanish onion (about 3/4 pound), cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
- 1/4 small head green cabbage (about 1/2 pound), cut into bite-size pieces
- 2 medium Idaho potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
- 1/2 package (about 1/2 pound) firm tofu, cut into 4 pieces
- 1 ounce harusame (mung bean glass noodles), soaked in water for 15 minutes
- 1 negi (Japanese onion), sliced on an angle into 2-inch pieces
- 3 1/2 ounces (half of a 200-gram package) enoki mushrooms, trimmed and pulled apart
- 4 ounces shiitake mushrooms (about 8 pieces), stemmed
- 1 pound salmon fillet, halved lengthwise and sliced into 1/2-inch-thick pieces
- 2 cups shungiku leaves, stemmed
- 1 tablespoon salmon roe, for garnish (optional)
- Sansho, for accent
Prepare the broth by combining the dashi, miso, and mirin in a bowl, whisking to blend well; reserve.
Place the onion slices on the bottom of a hot pot and randomly pile the cabbage and potatoes on top of it. Pour in the reserved broth. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium and simmer for 3 minutes.
Uncover the pot, and place the tofu, harusame, negi, enoki mushrooms, and shiitake mushrooms on top of the other ingredients, arranging each in a separate, neat bunch. Cover the pot again and simmer for 5 minutes more.
Uncover the pot and arrange the salmon slices on top of the other ingredients. Simmer until the salmon is cooked through, about 5 minutes more. As the fish cooks, use chopsticks at regular to separate the slices and press them into the broth so they heat through evenly. Add the shungiku leaves and simmer for 1 minute more. Garnish with a sprinkle of salmon roe, if using, over the pot.
Transfer the hot pot to the dining table. Serve the ingredients together with the broth in small bowl, accenting with the sansho.
Suggested side dish: Individual bowls of steamed rice.