“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 cut
and present them in the Japanese fashion. But the procedure presents no
difficulties, and, best of all, your guests cook their own dinner.

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In Japan, this style of one-pot cooking is called
nabemono–“things in a pot.’ Gathered around a pot of
simmering broth, guests select the foods they want and immerse a portion
at a time in the broth. Some foods only need to be warmed; others take
a minute or two to cook. Then you fish out your food (territorial
debates occasionally may occur) and dip it into a sauce before eating.
When appetites are sated, guests sip the broth, which gains flavor as it
cooks.



You may want to accompany the hot pot with rice and Oriental
pickled 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. It
can be an electric wok or deep electric frying pan (it should hold at
least 5 quarts), an electric hot plate, or a butane-fueled tabletop
burner. With an independent heat source, you also need a
table-presentable pan.



For each person, have a plate, a small cup for sauce and broth, a
beverage cup (regular or Oriental teacup), and a pair of chopsticks or a
fondue fork. Provide individual wire or perforated skimmers (available
in 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, and
leaves chilled



Mushroom bundles (directions follow) or 1/2 pound small (about
1-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 regular
mushrooms, wash and add to platter just before serving.)



Place a 5- to 6-quart pan with a heat source (see preceding
directions for setting the table) in the center of a table within easy
reach of all. In the kitchen, bring broth to boiling. Add to pan and
adjust 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 it
turns 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. Ladle
hot 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 mushrooms
into 6 equal portions, laying mushrooms parallel.



Cut 6 fresh green stems (tops) from about 2 green onions; reserve
white part to chop (see preceding recipe). Immerse stems until limp in
boiling water, about 30 seconds; drain and let cool. Tie each portion
of mushrooms with an onion stem. Cut off and discard brown ends of
mushrooms.



Carrot bundles. Peel and trim ends off 2 medium-size carrots. Cut
each carrot crosswise into thirds; cut each third into thin sticks.
Divide into 12 equal portions and lay sticks parallel. Cut 12 fresh
green 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 with
an onion stem.


Spinach rolls. Wash and discard stems from 2 pounds spinach; set
leaves aside.



In a 5- to 6-quart pan, bring about 3 inches water to boiling. Cut
large outer napa cabbage leaves, 9 to 10 inches each, free at base (save
remaining head for other uses). Immerse leaves in boiling water until
limp, about 2 minutes. Lift cabbage from water; drain, lay flat, and
pat dry. Make a V-shape cut to trim thick part of rib from center of
each 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 in
opposite directions), with edges overlapping several inches. Lay half
the spinach in an even row along outer edge of one cabbage leaf. Form a
compact 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 tight
so it will hold its shape when heated in broth. Form another roll with
remaining cabbage and spinach. Cut rolls crosswise into 1 1/2-inch
slices.



Peanut sauce. Smoothly blend 2/3 cup cream-style peanut butter, 2
tablespoons soy sauce, 4 teaspoons distilled white vinegar, and 2
teaspoons sugar. Slowly whisk in 1 cup regular-strength chicken broth.
Serve sauce in a pitcher.



Photo: Roll cabbage snugly around spinach. Lift cloth to guide
roll as you form it



Photo: Simmering broth heats bundles of carrot sticks and enoki
mushrooms tied with green onion stems, rolls of spinach and napa
cabbage, 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 to
cook 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. Season
with peanut sauce, green onion, lime, chili, then sip

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