Home Again

By Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

I’m fortunate that my business takes me to extraordinary cities and provides an opportunity to enjoy sensational meals. But after a trip that includes a few days of fine dining, I’m ready for something simple when I get home. That was my culinary state of mind when I returned Friday night from New York City.

Japanese home cooking is a good antidote for fancy meals and one of my favorites is Oyako Donburi. “Donburi” means “bowl,” and donburi meals consist of a big bowl of rice with seasoned toppings. So that is what I made for dinner Saturday night.

Oyako Donburi is rice topped with chicken and eggs, cooked in a soy-based sauce. This dish is quick to make and easy on the budget since it uses just a little bit of chicken and some eggs. To make it a bit healthier, you could serve it over brown rice instead of traditional white rice.

While the main ingredients are inexpensive, you will probably have to buy a few things that you don’t normally have on hand: mirin (Japanese sweet cooking sake), regular sake and nori –toasted seaweed sheets used in sushi.

It’s worth the investment because mirin will keep indefinitely and nori also will keep for a long time, stored in a zip-top bag in the freezer. Sake will keep about a month in the fridge, once opened. If you choose to use dried shiitake mushrooms instead of button mushrooms, just store the remaining dried mushrooms in a plastic bag to use in other dishes later; they’ll keep forever.

If you start the rice in an electric rice cooker first thing before you get cooking, you can be sitting down to dinner in about 30 minutes. If you don’t have an electric rice cooker, this Friday for Special Fork’s Video Friday, I’ll demo how to cook short-grain rice in a regular pot. It’s easy – we did this daily as kids. It takes about a half hour, start to finish.

This recipe was designed so you can easily cut it in half to serve two people or do the math to make one serving.

To get the recipe and shopping list on your smartphone (iPhone, BlackBerry, Android device) or PC, click here.

Oyako Donburi
Makes 4 servings

4 small dried shiitake mushrooms or 8 button mushrooms, sliced
4 tablespoons sake
4 tablespoons mirin (Japanese sweet cooking sake)
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 1 breast), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 to 3 green onions, sliced on the bias (about 1/2 cup)
4 eggs, beaten
4 to 5 cups hot cooked rice
1 sheet nori, cut into thin strips with kitchen scissors (optional)

Soak dried shiitake mushrooms in 1 cup hot water for 15 minutes to rehydrate. When mushrooms are rehydrated, squeeze dry. Trim stems and discard; slice mushroom caps thinly. Save the mushroom soaking water.

In a deep medium skillet combine sake, mirin, soy sauce and sugar and the shiitake mushroom soaking water; if using button mushrooms use 1 cup water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.

Add the chicken and mushrooms; bring to a boil and simmer about 3 minutes until chicken is mostly cooked. (Test by taking out a chicken cube and cutting in half. No blood should run out but meat should be very moist.) Add green onions, stir and add beaten eggs, pouring in a circular motion to cover the surface of the pan. Cover skillet and simmer 2 to 3 minutes more until egg is still moist but set.

Spoon rice into four large soup bowls, dividing equally. Add 1/4 of the egg and chicken mixture to each bowl and spoon sauce over, dividing equally. Garnish with nori strips, if desired.

Note: 1-1/2 cups of raw rice will make about 4-1/2 cups cooked rice.

Tip: If you can’t wait 15 minutes for the dried shiitake mushrooms to rehydrate, cut them in small pieces with kitchen shears before soaking – they’ll rehydrate faster.

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Posted: Mar 17th by Sandy_Hu