In continuing my exploration of simmered/poached seafood, I thought about Hakuni-style Simmered Anago from Nobu: The Sushi Cookbook (p.89). Unfortunately, I couldn’t get my hands on anago, so I looked up the closest substitute for it. A close substitute was suggested from the Sarafina Center@http://safinacenter.org/programs/sustainable-seafood-program/ocean-friendly-substitutes/
The Sarafina Center commented: (Freshwater Eel)…Try Spanish Mackerel or American Lobster as a substitute for the dense fleshed Freshwater Eel. Both share a deep, rich flavor which pairs well with a preparation in which a sweetened sauce is used. While the Nobu recipe calls for 2 to 3 butterflied anago fillets (rinse the slime off the skin), I would be using the sawara
for this dish. The braising liquid was pretty easy to make. It was:
2 cups water
1/4 cup (50ml) sake
1 1/2 T sugar
1 T usukuchi soy sauce
1/2 t salt
The instructions were straightforward – bring the braising mixture to a boil and add in the fillets. When the braise comes back
to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 8 minutes. My wife commented that the aroma from the braise really smelled like Japanese style eel being cooked for sushi!
Now the question was how to present the sawara/anago. The only thing I could think of was eggplant since that was a pairing used with an mackerel/eggplant dish in Nobu Now. For that item, I split a ‘small’ eggplant lengthwise and then cut into 1″
width pieces to be put into a braise of about 2 1/2 cups of dashi, 1 1/2 tablespoons of usukuchi soy and 1 tablespoon of mirin.
*That* braising mixure I brought to a boil and then added the eggplant pieces, brought it back to a boil and then cooked it covered on
medium heat for about 10 minutes. By the way – the ‘braised eggplant’ sort of follows the Dashi-Marinated Eggplant in Nobu:
The Vegetarian Cookbook (p. 48) insofar as the nearly 1:1 ratio of soy to mirin (I used a little more soy here as personal preference). The cookbook version first deep fries its eggplant and then lets it marinate in a mix of 5:1:1 ratio of kombu dashi:soy:mirin.
With both the sawara hakuni and simmered eggplant ready, the quickest way I thought to try the dish was to present it as a donburi.
My wife and I were happy on how the dish turned out. She mentioned how soft the sawara was and not ‘dried out’. There was also the eel-like flavor profile for having been cooked in that seasoned braising liquid and the soy salt really accentuated that flavor profile. The interesting thing is that it did not come across as sweet as I thought it might have, given 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar in the braise. My wife commented that it was easy enough to make that she would like to see this item again in the near future (perhaps as part of bara sushi/chirashi?). In retrospect, I really wonder if I should have used rice prepared for nigiri instead of just plain rice to really appreciate the simmered sawara. Matsuhisa-sama says this cooked seafood (anago, and perhaps sawara) can be kept 3 days, refirdgerated. If I make an extra amount in the future,I wonder if I really could get the opportunity to make bara sushi/chirashi with this ingredient?