konbu water

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making lobster broth

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final product

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konbu water

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2. Lobster Braised Daikon "Fukume-Ni"
大根のロブスター  含め煮

Recipe and Tips by Richard Willey

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Over the past couple months I’ve gotten kind of obsessed with braised daikon.  I’ve probably made it close to a dozen times now.  The dish is tasty, inexpensive, and while there are a number of steps involved, its quite to make.  Also, braised daikon is extremely flexible.  It soaks up flavor from whatever you are braising it in, so you can use it to complement or offset a variety of different dishes.

This blog posting is my attempt to pass along some of what I have learned.  (I’d like to thank Youji who was gracious enough to share some tips and tricks that I wouldn’t otherwise have figured out)

Vocabulary

*  Mentori:  Trimming the edge of the disks of the daikon.  We want to daikon to cook evenly.  As such, we want to make sure that the disks of the daikon are all the same thickness.  However, even if we do a great job here, the corner edges of the disks are going to be quite thin.  They can become mushy during the long braise and they can break off making the dish look uneven.  Trimming / rounding the edges makes for a more consistent presentation.

*  Kakushi-bocho:  Cutting an X or a cross on one side of the daikon.  This is an optional step that speeds up the cooking time and allows the broth to penetrate to the inside of the radish more easily.

*  Shita – yude:  A preliminary boil (details in the recipe below)

*  Oka – age:  Allowing the dish to cool down to room temperature before the long braise.  (The initial boil followed by the cooling process changes the chemistry of the starch and allows the broth to flavor the radish more effectively)

*  Hon – yude:  The long slow braise (details in the recipe below)

*  Otoshibuta:  A “drop lid”.  The otoshibuta rests directly on top of whatever is being cooked rather than the sides of the pot.  The primary purpose of the drop lid seems to be preventing evaporation.  However, because the lid sits directly on the liquid, it retards the formation of large bubbles which might shake the daikon and cause them to break apart.

Ingredients (six rounds)

·      1 medium sized daikon root

·      4 cups dashi

·      2 tablespoons soy sauce (I use dark simply because I prefer the color)

·      1 tablespoon sake

·      2 teaspoons sugar

·      2 tablespoons mirin

Directions

Step 1:  Prepare Your Dashi

There are a whole lot of recipes for dashi out there.  I have been experimenting with a very simply lobster dashi.  I start with 5 cups of room temperature spring water.  I let some kombu soak in this for an hour or so.  After which, I remove the kombu and then simmer some lobster bodies that I get from the local fish mongers.  I simmer this for about an hour, (straining off the scum a couple times.  Finally, strain everything through a mesh strainer and I’m ready to go.

Step 2:  Prepare Your Radish Slices 

As I mentioned earlier, consistency is important.  You want to make sure that all your daikon slices are the same size and thickness so they cook evenly.  I cheat.  By which I mean that I use a metal biscuit cutter to make sure that my rounds are all precisely the same size and thickness.  I use a vegetable peeler to create the mentori.  Finally I make the “hidden cut” (kakushi bocho) to help the flavor penetrate the daikon.

Note:  I peel the daikon prior to slicing off the rounds.  This way I can use the scraps for stock, pickles, whatever.   

Step 3:  Shita – Yude 

As I understand matters, the shita – yude is a short preliminary boil that happens before the daikon is braised.  Traditionally, this is done using water that is left over from rinsing rice.  (I have seen some claims that you want to do a quick preliminary rinse of the rice and then use the liquid from the second rinse for the shita – yude).

In any case, I prepped some rice for lunch.  Grabbed the water from the second rinse.  And then did a quick 10 minute par boil of my daikon rounds.  In some ways, this reminds me of the making a Western stock in which you initially cook the bones at a boil and draw off various gunk, then wash the bones, and then do a long simmer.  Using rice water supposedly helps with the color, helps remove bitterness, and adds some nutrients.

Step 4:  Oka – Age

Oka age involved deliberately cooling the daikon rounds back down to room temperature prior to the final braise.  This step changes the chemical composition of the starches in the radish and (once again) helps it to absorb the broth.  I recently learning about a technique for making mashed potatoes in which you first cook them at a high temperature, then let them cool down, then cook them a second time.  Here, once again, the heating / cooling / heating cycle is supposed to improve the texture of the root vegetable.  (When I see different cultures in different parts of the world independently arrive at the same cooking techniques, it gives me some degree of confidence that there is something to this…)

So, I removed the radishes from the liquid.  Gently rinsed them.  And then gave them an hour or so to cool off.  (one nice thing about a soapstone table top is that things cool off quickly)

Step 5:  Hon – Yude

·      Strain the lobster dashi and add enough spring water to bring it up to 4 cups

·      Add sugar, soy sauce, and sake.  Whisk well.

·      Throw in some lobster legs for more flavor

·      Add daikon rounds

·      Simmer for two hours and 15 minutes, flipping every 30 minutes or so. 

·      Add mirin and simmer for another 10 minutes

I am not using an otoshi-buta.  The advice online seems to conflict about whether this is necessary

Step 6:  Enjoy

So, I pretty much made the same recipe this weekend and last.  The big difference this time around was that I used the rice water for the shita – yude rather than dashi and I incorporated a cooling down stage (the oka – age) rather than just turning the heat down and proceeding to a simmer.  I do believe that these two steps had a noticeable (and positive) impact on the final dish.  (And, given that the don’t really cost anything other than a bit of time, I’ll definitely continue to use this technique)

FWIW, I was quite happy with the final result.  Nice and tender with a slight taste of the lobster shining through…

Kanpai!

-Richard Willey