Monday, December 18, 2017

The last days of 2016 John and I had a 24-hour stopover in Narita, Japan so I booked a stay at the Crowne Plaza Narita, which offers free airport transfers. A flyer in our room stated that the hotel offered several New Year’s events, one of which was an “osechi” breakfast. When I asked what it was Ayaka Ohara, the public relations director, explained that according to tradition nothing should be cooked on New Year’s
Day. Osechi is a variety of colorful dishes in a bento box that is part of a traditional New Year’s morning meal that also includes ozoni.  The bento box (a box with single serving compartments) includes a variety of artistically prepared pieces of fish and vegetables. Ms. Ohara said that the next morning, New Year’s Eve morning, the chef would be making ozoni and he would be happy to show us how it is made. Ozoni is a
soup containing a rice cake and vegetables – a traditional New Year’s dish that is said to provide strength and prosperity in the coming year. On the first day of the New Year a dream that includes either Mt Fuji, a hawk, an eggplant, or all three portends a prosperous and happy New Year. 


The Japanese Chef Shimada Ikuhou said that in order to make osoni it was necessary to make dashi, a Japanese soup stock used in many recipes.

Ozoni

Dashi: Japanese soup stock
5 ½ quarts water
1 piece Konbu (dried seasoned kelp)
2 oz dried bonito shavings

Ozoni (for two serving)
2 prawns or large shrimp
Dash of salt
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp mirin (rice wine)
½ oz thinly cut white meat chicken
2 Kamaboko (1 pink and 1 white) slice each color in 1/8 in strips and tie in a knot 
6 slices of carrot (rosette cut)
2 snow peas (cooked)
2 thin slices yuzu (citrus rind)
1 Mochi (rice cake) baked

To make Dashi place water in a stock pot, add konbu, bring to a boil and cook for five minutes. Remove konbu and discard. Add bonito bring it to boil. Boil for five minutes. Drain, return to pot and allow to simmer.

In dashi broth cook prawns three to five minutes until pink. Remove. In a new pot add one cup of dashi for each serving. Add salt, soy sauce and simmer for five minutes (season to taste). Add mirin, bring to boil. Add chicken, snow peas, kamaboko, and carrots cook over medium heat until chicken is cooked and vegetables are tender. 

To make mochi: Preheat oven. Bake at 345 degrees for five minutes. Put mochi under the broiler for 30 seconds. Mochi should be soft with light brown top. 

Presentation: Put one mochi in a serving bowl, arrange prawn, carrots, snow peas, chicken, and kamaboko artfully around mochi. Cover with Dashi. Garnish with yuzu.

Around the world there are different ways to wish people good luck.  In Japan making origami cranes and string them together is a way to wish people good luck. John and I were in Japan few weeks after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Our hotel, the Peninsula, had many origami cranes adorning the artwork in the lobby in the hope of wishing the people good luck in the future. A thousand cranes are said to bring good luck to newlyweds. On the first day of the new year a dream that includes Mt Fuji, a hawk, an eggplant, or all three means that one will be happy. 

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