Mizuna Potato Nimono
A ‘Nimono’, in Japanese cuisine, is a dish in which the main ingredients are simmered in broth. Generally, the broth will be made with Dashi, and enhanced with Soy, Sake or Mirin, Miso, or other seasonings.
In this recipe, Potato is paired with Mizuna, which is a peppery salad herb quite commonly used in Japanese cookery, but not yet widely known in the west. It can be found in markets occasionally, but if it is not available, substitutions are easy.
The Mizuna leaves shown above were grown at home. For many North Americans, this may be the only way to source the herb, but, fortunately, the plant is extremely easy to start from seed and grows really quickly.
The plant is somewhat closely related to Turnip and is sometimes called ‘Japanese Mustard’ It does actually have a slightly peppery flavor a bit like mild mustard greens, but is best described, I think, as slightly less bitter version of Arugula. Indeed, you could probably substitute Arugula leaves in this recipe, or else use baby spinach, mustard greens, or anything else commonly used in a Mesclun mix.
Blanching Mizuna ahead of time will help preserve the pretty green color during simmering. To do this, simply drop the leaves in to boiling salted water for 5 to 10 seconds until they become a vivid bright green, then immediately remove them and plunge them into a bath of icy cold water to stop the cooking process.
You can keep the leaves in the cold water until ready to use, if you like, once you drain them, it is necessary to give them a good hard squeeze to remove as much liquid as possible. You will see that what appeared to be a large bunch of greens actually reduces to very little at all.
The Nimono Broth
The blend of Dashi, Soy Sauce, Sugar and Mirin used as the simmering broth in this recipe is pretty much the same sort of blend that constitutes the Kakejiru-type preparation commonly used as a Japanese Noodle Broth.
In this recipe, I have made the broth specifically for his dish, but if you have a batch of Kakejiru on hand, you could easily substitute a cup or so of it for the individual broth ingredients given here. If you wish to prepare a batch to use here and elsewhere, you can follow the basic recipe for my Kakejiru – Japanese Noodle Broth and even vary it to suit your own taste.
The Basic Method
In a typical Nimono, the main ingredients are simmered in a relatively small amount of broth until the broth is mostly absorbed, or has evaporated. The absorption can be complete, or the simmering halted while just a little liquid is left. The remaining broth can then be spooned over the solid ingredients as a sauce just before service.
The Mizuna really doesn’t need any further cooking, as it is tender enough even without the blanching. It does, however, need to be warmed through and this can be achieved by adding it at the end of the simmering process and stirring everything gently once or twice.
After this, you should plate and serve immediately. Delicate greens like Mizuna do not fare well if held over too long and the prettiness of the dish will be diminished.
The garnish used for this post, as seen in the very first picture, consists of the Korean Chili Threads known as Sil-Gochu. These are not very traditional in a Japanese Nimono, of course, but they wok well here, I think.
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Mizuna Potato Nimono
- 1 lb Potato cut into small chunks
- 1 handful Mizuna
- 1 cup Dashi
- 1 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
- 1 Tbsp. Mirin
- ½ tsp Salt
- 1 Tsp. Sugar
- Blanch the Mizuna in boiling salted water for about 5 or 10 seconds and then plunge quickly into cold water to arrest the cooking process.
- When cool, remove the leaves from the cold water, squeeze to remove as much water as possible, then chop coarsely.
- Combine the Dashi, Mirin, Soy Sauce, Salt and Sugar in a suitable pot and bring it to a boil.
- Add the chunks of potato and turn the heat down to a gentle simmer. Continue to cook the potato for 15 or 20 minutes until the potato is soft and the broth is mostly absorbed or evaporated.
- Add the Mizuna and cook for a minute or so longer, stirring gently.
- Transfer the Potato and Mizuna to serving dishes, with any remaining broth spooned over top.
- Garnish as desired and serve immediately.