Recipe from Japanese Farm Food by Nancy Singleton Hachisu (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2012)
Nanohana no Natsumikan Chawan mushi
Using citrus shells is a little tricky, but the presentation is worth a bit of uncertainty in the cooking process. This is a gorgeous dish that can be prepped ahead of time and cooked at the last minute.
- 1 (2-ounce/60-g) chicken breast filet (sasami )
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 ⅓ cups (300 cc) Dashi (recipe follows)
- 3 large or 4 small eggs, at room temperature
- 1 ½ teaspoons mirin
- 5 sour oranges (natsumikan, daidai, amanatsu, or Seville)
- 12 (1-inch/2.5-cm) sprigs flowering mustard or tender rapini
Sprinkle the chicken breast filet with ¼ teaspoon of salt, and drop into a heavy resealable plastic bag. Press out the excess air, seal, and refrigerate for at least an hour if not overnight.
Add the remaining ¾ teaspoon of salt to the dashi in a small saucepan. Warm slowly over low heat to dissolve the salt. Let cool or use warm, but it should not be hot. Break the eggs into a medium-sized bowl and gently whisk with a fork to homogenize the whites and yolks. Whisk in the dashi and mirin lightly to avoid creating foam. Pour through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean bowl. Finely grate the zest of 1 sour orange directly into the custard and stir.
Slice the tops off the 4 other oranges and scoop out the pulp and juice into a bowl. Strain and use for something else. Leave a thin layer of pulp so the egg custard will not be in direct contact with the bitter white pith.
Cut the chicken breast filet into ó-inch (12-mm) pieces and distribute evenly among the 4 prepared sour orange shells. Nestle 3 flowering mustard sprigs in with the chicken pieces.
Place the custard-filled citrus halves in a bamboo or metal steamer set over a large pan of simmering water. Portion out the egg mixture among the halves by pouring a bit at a time into each one.
Since the citrus halves are porous, you can fill them to the top.
Steam over low heat for 30 minutes or until set.
Makes about 1 cups (300 cc)
Dashi is probably the most important building block in Japanese cooking. Many chefs (especially those from Kyoto) wax poetic about the special methods they employ to draw out the natural umami of the konbu and katsuobushi when making dashi. Even the water must come from the Kyoto area. Our dashi is a bit more straightforward and quite tasty, despite our more laissez-faire attitude and lack of Kyoto water. We use well water from our family well, and it works just fine. I’m sure the water wherever you live will work just as well. The important thing to remember here is that dashi—or for that matter any food—should not become an obsessive chore. If you start with great ingredients, your food will taste good.
- 1 (6-inch/15-cm) length of konbu
- Handful of dried bonito shavings (katsuobushi)
Place the konbu in a medium saucepan containing 2 cups (500 cc) of cold water. Bring almost to a boil (you will see minute bubbles form on the edges of the konbu) and remove the konbu. Throw in the dried bonito shavings and simmer friskily, but not crazily, for 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand 8 minutes. Set a small fine-mesh strainer over a 1-quart (1-liter) measuring cup and pour the dashi through the strainer to remove the dried bonito shavings. You should have 1⅓ cups (300 cc) dashi. If you do not, add water (pouring through the strainer holding the strained katsuobushi ) to make the amount of liquid needed. Use within a day or so, if kept chilled in the fridge.
Serve immediately on a pottery plate with a small wooden or lacquer spoon.
Variations: Substitute any small pieces of crisp green vegetables or blanched greens in place of the mustard flowers. Omit the chicken filet for a vegetarian version.