Saturday, March 5, 2011

Donabe-simmered Salt-marinated Kurobuta Pork

I've been back in Japan since Thursday and having a great time... So, here is something I made before I left LA.

This dish is a great example of how simple seasoning can make a wonderful dish with a profound flavor. Salt and time do all the magic.

I got a block (about 2 pounds) of kurobuta pork butt. I seasoned it all over simply with coarse sea salt (a little over 1 Tbsp), covered, and let rest in the refrigerator for 3 days. By salt-marinating the meat, (just like making ham), the meat develops the umami flavors (amino acid, etc.), and also becomes rosier in color. My 3-day salt-marinated meat looked so gorgeous that I just wanted to bite into it.

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The meat was put in my soup & stew donabe, "Miso-shiru Nabe", with 1/2C sake, 2C water, green part (only) from a couple of scallions, some black peppercorns (about 1/2 tsp) a couple of garlic cloves (lightly smashed), and a knob of ginger (lightly smashed). These ingredients were brought to boil, reduced to simmer, surface was lined with a piece of foil, then slow-cooked in the 325F oven for 1h 45m to 2hrs. The aroma was superb, and the broth tasted so nice. The meat was already just tender. You could just serve it at this stage. But, it's nicer to skim the fat (released from the meat) in the broth. So, I strained the broth into a bowl and refrigerated it until the fat solidifies and makes a layer on the top.

Once I removed the fat layer from the broth, meat and broth were put back in the donabe along with 8-10 leaves of napa cabbage, some cut gobo (burdock root, cut into oblique and soaked in water for 15 minutes). They were simmered for 25-30 minutes, then 4 kabu (Japanese turnip, cut into quarters) were added and simmered for additional 10 minutes. That's it!

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The meat came out so perfect. I sliced the meat on a cutting board. The broth looked and smelled very nice, too.

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Here's my simple "salt pork" dish. The meat was so succulent and the flavor was so elegant. It was perfect. I served it with yuzu-kosho as a condiment, which gave a nice accent to the dish. I also made wild chanterelle mushrooms ragout (gift from a friend of mine...he picked them in N. California) and served with the pork dish. Beautiful combination.

Here's a bonus dish. I set aside some pork broth and made gobo (burdock root) rice with it. The rice also had a topping of sauteed kabu (Japanese turnip) leaves. So, no ingredients were wasted in these dishes. The burdock rice, cooked in pork broth was simply amazing.

What a great dinner.
Happy donabe life.