[Photographs: Vicky Wasik]
Ozoni is one of Japan’s traditional New Year’s foods. It comes in many forms depending on the locale and family, but it always features a seasoned broth with tender and chewy pieces of mochi (glutinous rice cake). This recipe pulls from a variety of regional styles and family practices. The broth is made like dashi—infused with kombu, dried shiitake mushrooms, and bonito flakes—but here the liquid used is chicken stock, an uncommon practice in Japan (you can, optionally, use water instead). It’s then seasoned with soy sauce and served with a range of goodies, including vegetables like carrot, daikon, and spinach as well as pieces of tender sake-marinated chicken.
Adapted from family recipes provided by Marc Matsumoto and Maiko Kyogoku.
Why It Works
- Chicken stock, while not traditional, adds an even deeper flavor to the broth.
- Marinating the chicken in sake and salt gives it a richer, more umami-packed flavor, and also helps it retain its juices during cooking.
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 6 ounces; 170g each), cut into 3/4-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) dry sake
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
- 1 ounce (30g) sliced or whole dried shiitake mushrooms
- 1/3 ounce (10g) kombu (about two 6- by 2-inch pieces)
- 2 quarts (2 liters) warm white or brown chicken stock, low-sodium chicken broth, or water (see note)
- One 4-ounce (115g) bunch spinach, washed well
- One 3 1/2 ounce (100g) piece burdock root, peeled, julienned, and held in water acidulated with lemon juice
- One 3 1/2 ounce (100g) lotus root, peeled, sliced crosswise about 2mm thick, and held in water acidulated with lemon juice (optional)
- 1 large (4 1/2 ounce; 125g) carrot, peeled and sliced into 1/16-inch (1.5mm) thick rounds (cut with a channel knife to look like flowers, if desired)
- 1 small (4 1/2 ounce; 125g) daikon, peeled and sliced into 1/16-inch (1.5mm) thick rounds (cut with a channel knife to look like flowers, if desired)
- Large pinch bonito flakes (katsuobushi)
- 2 teaspoons (10ml) light (usukuchi) or dark (koikuchi) Japanese soy sauce, plus more as needed
- 8 slices naruto kamaboko (Japanese white fish cake with pink swirl), each about 2mm thick
- 3 rectangular pieces of kiri mochi, each split into 4 pieces along scored lines (see note)
- 8 sprigs mitsuba (Japanese parsley; optional)
- Thinly sliced scallions, for garnish
- Zest of half a fresh yuzu, Meyer lemon, or regular lemon
In a small bowl, stir together chicken, sake, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
In a 3-quart saucepan, cover shiitake mushrooms and kombu with the warm stock or water. Let stand 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of water to rolling boil and set up an ice bath. Add spinach and boil until tender, about 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon or strainer, transfer spinach to ice bath to chill. Remove from ice bath, squeeze out excess water, then roughly chop. Set aside.
Return water to a boil, add burdock root and cook until just tender, about 2 minutes. Transfer burdock to ice bath, then remove from ice bath and set aside in small bowl. Add lotus root, if using, to the boiling water and cook until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Shock in ice bath, then transfer to another small bowl and set aside.
Add carrot and daikon to boiling water and cook until just tender, about 1 minute. Shock in ice bath, then drain and reserve in small bowl.
Set pot with shiitake mushrooms and kombu over medium heat and bring to a gentle simmer. Remove kombu (you can save it for another use). Add bonito flakes and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Strain broth through fine-mesh strainer into a heatproof container. Rinse out saucepan, then return strained broth to saucepan.
Add soy sauce to broth, then taste, adding more if desired; you can also season with some salt if you want more sodium without a stronger soy flavor.
Return broth to a gentle simmer. Drain chicken of excess liquid, then add to broth and cook for 2 minutes. Add sliced fish cake and cook for 1 minute longer. Reduce heat to the barest simmer to keep warm.
Heat a medium cast iron skillet over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add dry mochi pieces to skillet and cook, turning every 30 seconds, until puffed and golden on both sides; adjust heat as needed to develop a nice color on the mochi without burning it.
Divide mochi among 4 serving bowls. Arrange burdock root, lotus, spinach, carrot, daikon, chicken, and fish cake in each bowl. Ladle hot broth into each bowl. Garnish with mitsuba, scallions, and citrus zest. Serve.
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