I'm starting to think I should go back to cooking something I have a proven track record with. I've had a succession of new dishes that have not worked out too well. Then again, the sukiyaki wasn't new. Never mind.
Tonight I decided to try making mizore nabe, or "sleet in a claypot," as Obachan so aptly puts it. I was inspired by her post on the dish back in January. After some poking around the internet, I found a recipe for it at Yasuko-san's blog. After comparing and contrasting the two, I decided to take them as a starting point and extrapolate a little from there.
Naming a winter hotpot dish after sleet seems so poetic that I had to try cooking it. The "sleet" is really grated daikon. When I was grating the daikon, however, I realized that I had forgotten what hard work poetry can be. I have a tiny grater, and when I had grated a certain amount of daikon, it would get too slippery to continue until I cleaned the grater off. I finally figured out that more pressure on the daikon against the grater worked better, so I switched hands so that I was holding the daikon in my left hand (which is stronger than my right). It went much better after that.
While I was grating daikon, slicing scallions and selecting bean sprouts, chicken was marinating in a mixture of shoyu, sake and sugar. Mirin is recommended, but I'm currently out of it, so I substituted a tablespoon of sake mixed with two teaspoons of sugar for each tablespoon of mirin, as per Hiroko Shimbo. The marinade smelled suitably mirin-like.
Since this was a nabe dish, I figured it was a good excuse to cook with the donabe. To make a long story short, I think I won't be cooking with the donabe on weeknights any more. It just takes too long. The total cooking time for the mizore nabe wound up being an hour and a half, and I probably could've let it go longer. Getting the donabe warmed up takes a while, and then adding ingredients to it lowers the broth temperature, so I have to wait for it to warm up again. Once it reaches a good temperature, it does cook along quite well; I never raised the burner above medium heat but did manage to get a boil going at times. Then again, I don't know if the crackling sound I heard when the donabe was hottest was boiling broth or crackling clay. At least the donabe seemed undamaged afterward.
The mizore nabe tasted reasonably good. It was probably not as sweet as it would be if I had used mirin in the broth. The broth was a combination of one cup of water, a four-inch piece of konbu kelp, five tablespoons of shoyu, two and a half tablespoons of sugar, and two and a half tablespoons of "mirin substitute." That broth is more or less what I use to make donburi, and the proportions come from Hiroko Urakami's Japanese Family-Style Recipes. The daikon did look sleety while cooking, but once I added the chicken and its marinade, it turned into brown slush. I don't cook with daikon often because I'm not that fond of its flavor, but its strong taste worked well in the mizore nabe.
Bottom line: not a bad meal, and I'm eager to try Obachan's chicken meatballs and Yasuko-san's deep-fried chicken version, but I may not do that in the donabe next time. Unless it's a weekend.