zōni (japanese new year soup)
4 pieces snow pea
small in size
1 bunch misuba
could also use spinach
8 slices carrot
sliced thin and cut into the shape of a cherry blossom or other decorative shapes
1/2 lb chicken thigh
skinless and boneless
4 cups dashi
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup sake
4 pieces shiitake mushrooms
1 tbsp usukuchi soy sauce
4 pieces mochi
4 slices kamaboko
sliced thin
yuzu zest
peeled, could also use meyer lemon as a substitute
As a Japanese new year tradition, zoni (short for ozōni) is supposed to be the very first thing you eat in the new year. I first tasted zoni the first time I joined my husband's family for new year's day. We now make this soup at home every new year. To make cooking as easy as possible on new year's day, we do some food prep on new year's eve.
new year's eve
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare an ice bath. Blanch the snow peas for 20 seconds then transfer them to the ice bath. Drain.
Bring the water back to a boil then blanch the mitsuba in the boiling water for 45 seconds then transfer it to the ice bath. Drain the mitsuba then twist pieces of it into 4 mini-wreaths.
Store the snow peas and misuba wreaths in an airtight container lined with paper towel.
Using the stainless vegetable cutters, cut the carrot into decorative shapes. Store in the fridge for use the next day. Keep the carrot scraps as well but store them separately.
new year's day
About an hour before serving time, reconstitute the shiitake mushrooms in a glass measuring cup filled with 1 cup of hot water. Weigh the mushrooms down with a ramekin or equivalent to keep them submerged. If using fresh shiitakes, simply wash and slice.
Bring a pot of hot water to a boil. Boil the chicken for a few minutes to "cook off the first." This process boils off any scum and helps ensure that your final broth is as clear and clean as possible. Drain the chicken and toss out the scum with the water. If reusing the same pot for soup, rinse it out and wipe with paper towel.
Warm up the dashi in a pot. Season it with the salt and sake. Simmer the chicken and carrot scraps in it for about 20 minutes. The carrot cutouts will be added later.
Pull the chicken out of the soup, slice, and reserve. Fish out the carrot scraps and discard.
Add the carrot cutouts and sliced shiitake mushrooms to the soup. Also add the strained shiitake soaking liquid, if available, then season the soup with soy sauce.
Microwave the mochi for about 30 seconds, then toast it in the broiler until it puffs up and develops a golden brown crust. Watch it closely to make sure that it doesn't burn. We usually line the cookie sheet with foil and coat it with a little avocado oil to eliminate sticking.
To assemble, set a piece of mochi with some chicken in the bottom of the bowl. Add the mitsuba ring, the shiitake mushrooms, carrot shapes, kamaboko (fish cake), and snow pea. Garnish with yuzu/meyer lemon zest. Table side, fill each bowl with just enough broth so that the toasted mochi tip remains above the liquid. Enjoy immediately ... the mochi tastes best while the toasted top is still crunchy.
source: adapted from pbs.org