“Things in a pot” is what the Japanese call it Essay

“Things in a pot’ is what the Japanese call it Everyday foods look exotic in this one-pot meal, because you cutand present them in the Japanese fashion. But the procedure presents nodifficulties, and, best of all, your guests cook their own dinner. In Japan, this style of one-pot cooking is callednabemono–“things in a pot.’ Gathered around a pot ofsimmering broth, guests select the foods they want and immerse a portionat a time in the broth. Some foods only need to be warmed; others takea minute or two to cook. Then you fish out your food (territorialdebates occasionally may occur) and dip it into a sauce before eating.When appetites are sated, guests sip the broth, which gains flavor as itcooks. You may want to accompany the hot pot with rice and Orientalpickled vegetables.

For a beverage, consider tea or sake (hot or iced),or cold beer. Ice cream and ginger-flavored cookies go well as dessert. To set each table for 4 to 6, you need a tabletop heating unit. Itcan be an electric wok or deep electric frying pan (it should hold atleast 5 quarts), an electric hot plate, or a butane-fueled tabletopburner.

With an independent heat source, you also need atable-presentable pan. For each person, have a plate, a small cup for sauce and broth, abeverage cup (regular or Oriental teacup), and a pair of chopsticks or afondue fork. Provide individual wire or perforated skimmers (availablein Asian markets) or one for all to share. You also need a soup ladle.

Chicken and Vegetable One-Pot Meal 1 1/2 to 2 pounds boned and skinned chicken breasts 1 1/2 to 2 pounds mustard greens, washed, coarse stems removed, andleaves chilled Mushroom bundles (directions follow) or 1/2 pound small (about1-in. size) regular mushrooms, stems trimmed Carrot bundles (directions follow) Spinach rolls (directions follow) 3 quarts regular-strength chicken broth Peanut sauce (recipe follows) 1/2 cup finely chopped green onion, white part only 2 limes, each cut into 4 wedges 1 tablespoon crushed dried hot red chilies Cut chicken into 1- by 2-inch strips no thicker than 1 inch.Arrange individually on a large tray (or 2 small ones) the chicken,mustard greens, mushroom bundles, carrot bundles, and spinach rolls.

Serve, or cover and chill as long as overnight. (If using regularmushrooms, wash and add to platter just before serving.) Place a 5- to 6-quart pan with a heat source (see precedingdirections for setting the table) in the center of a table within easyreach of all. In the kitchen, bring broth to boiling. Add to pan andadjust heat to keep broth simmering.

Place the tray of foods alongside.Invite guests to add foods, a portion at a time, to the simmering broth.Lift out vegetables when hot, about 1 minute. Lift out chicken when itturns white and is firm when pressed, about 2 minutes. Flavor individual servings of peanut sauce to taste with onion,lime juice, and chilies. Dip vegetables and chicken into sauce to eat.

When guests have eaten all they want, turn off heat under broth. Ladlehot broth into sauce cups, add peanut sauce to taste, and sip broth.Serves 4 to 6.

Mushroom bundles. Divide 2 bags (3 1/2 oz. each) enoki mushroomsinto 6 equal portions, laying mushrooms parallel. Cut 6 fresh green stems (tops) from about 2 green onions; reservewhite part to chop (see preceding recipe). Immerse stems until limp inboiling water, about 30 seconds; drain and let cool.

Tie each portionof mushrooms with an onion stem. Cut off and discard brown ends ofmushrooms. Carrot bundles.

Peel and trim ends off 2 medium-size carrots. Cuteach carrot crosswise into thirds; cut each third into thin sticks.Divide into 12 equal portions and lay sticks parallel.

Cut 12 freshgreen stems (tops) from about 4 green onions; reserve white part to chop(see preceding recipe). Immerse stems in boiling water until limp,about 30 seconds; drain and let cool. Tie each portion of carrots withan onion stem. Spinach rolls. Wash and discard stems from 2 pounds spinach; setleaves aside. In a 5- to 6-quart pan, bring about 3 inches water to boiling. Cutlarge outer napa cabbage leaves, 9 to 10 inches each, free at base (saveremaining head for other uses). Immerse leaves in boiling water untillimp, about 2 minutes.

Lift cabbage from water; drain, lay flat, andpat dry. Make a V-shape cut to trim thick part of rib from center ofeach leaf. Add spinach to boiling water and cook until limp, about 2 minutes;drain. Let cool; firmly squeeze out moisture.

On a dish towel, lay 2 cabbage leaves side by side (stems inopposite directions), with edges overlapping several inches. Lay halfthe spinach in an even row along outer edge of one cabbage leaf. Form acompact roll by lifting the cloth with one hand (from the spinach side,as shown at left); smooth roll with the other hand. Make the roll tightso it will hold its shape when heated in broth.

Form another roll withremaining cabbage and spinach. Cut rolls crosswise into 1 1/2-inchslices. Peanut sauce. Smoothly blend 2/3 cup cream-style peanut butter, 2tablespoons soy sauce, 4 teaspoons distilled white vinegar, and 2teaspoons sugar. Slowly whisk in 1 cup regular-strength chicken broth.Serve sauce in a pitcher. Photo: Roll cabbage snugly around spinach.

Lift cloth to guideroll as you form it Photo: Simmering broth heats bundles of carrot sticks and enokimushrooms tied with green onion stems, rolls of spinach and napacabbage, and mustard greens. Heavier chunks of chicken cook beneath.Lift portions out with wire skimmer or chopsticks to drain Photo: Each guest selects Japanese-style tidbits from platter tocook at the table Photo: Dip cooked foods, by the biteful, into peanut sauce (left).At end of the meal (above), ladle cooking broth into sauce bowl.

Seasonwith peanut sauce, green onion, lime, chili, then sip

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