Monday, December 20, 2010

Pork-ginger miso stew

You may have noticed that most of the recipes I post here are things I'm trying for the first time. I'm kind of using this blog as my recipe book. Sorry. Here's one, for a change, that I've actually made enough times to swear by. An honest-to-goodness tried-and-true go-to recipe, and I sort of even invented it. I first tasted it in Hokkaido when I was on my mission, and tried to re-create it on my own.

Potatoes - 2 big ones, cut into large pieces
Carrots - handful of baby carrots, cut into small pieces
Green onions - 1 bunch, chopped, including as much of the green parts as look edible
Boneless pork chop(s) - cut into big chunks
Shiitake, fresh - 2 handsful, sliced
Dashi (bonito soup stock) - 2 tbsp or so
Miso (if you have a choice in the store, go for "awase" miso - pure white will be a little bland and pure red will be a little salty, but "awase," which is a blend, will be just right)
Ginger root, grated - maybe 2 tbsp

1. Cook some rice in your rice cooker.

2. Cut all your veggies and the pork.

3. Put some water in a big stewpot - maybe four or five cups? Add a couple of tablespoons of dashi powder, stir, and bring to a boil. I never measure the dashi, just add to taste.

4. Sear the pork in a frying pan until the outside is white, but the inside is still pink. Put it in the boiling water. (Searing it first helps keep the pork from drying out while it boils, which sounds paradoxical, but happens.)

5. Add the potatoes and carrots. (Cutting the potatoes in big chunks and the carrots in small chunks helps them to get done at the same time.)

6. A few minutes later add the onions and shiitake.

7. While everything is boiling, peel and grate your ginger. In Asian groceries you can get grated ginger in tubes, and I used to use that, but now I realize fresh is better. Grate a lot of ginger.

8. When everything's tender (the potatoes should be almost crumbling), turn the heat down so that the water is almost boiling, but not quite.

9. Add miso, a little bit at a time, to taste. What I usually do is scoop a big spoonful into a ladle, then dip some of the broth into the ladle, and start smashing and stirring the miso in the ladle to dissolve it. Do this a few times until all the miso in the ladle is dissolved, and then repeat. This helps dissolve all the miso without having to stir the soup energetically and crush the potatoes. I usually use maybe four tablespoons of miso, but I never measure. Use more than you would for a proper miso soup: for this stew it's better if you can really taste the saltiness. Don't let the soup boil after you've added the miso. You're not supposed to boil miso.

10. Add your grated ginger. The ginger taste should almost be strong enough to overpower the saltiness of the miso.

11. Your rice should be done by now. Scoop some into a bowl, and ladle some of the soup over it. And there you are.

The point here is the combination of the salty-sweet miso and the ginger: the taste goes incredibly well with pork, and the whole thing is a really warming, soothing winter dish. Especially over the rice. We make it when one of us has a cold. And it's really easy to make, as you can tell.

Of course it could be made vegetarian. You can find a shiitake-based dashi (I think I've mentioned it before), and tofu is a good substitute for pork. Use soft tofu (silken tofu). Tofu goes really well with grated ginger anyway. Sometimes I even add it when I'm using pork.

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