One of the best times for me to shoot is over the weekend, sometimes I shoot during the week too but over the weekend either I prepare meals for my friends or my family and the food I get to shoot for this blog is just a reflection of these short lifestyle instances. I think nearly everyone I knew had President’s day off, and I had the luxury of making and eating dinner with my dad. Yes this is a luxury, because I don’t get to do this as often as I’d like to as of late, and another luxury is that I have my camera on hand. Love it when I am in the mood to take some photos and when the food that is produced from the photos are enjoyed by a real life loving family member. The only way this situation could be better if I was serving this food to any of my readers. One day?
For dinner I didn’t have to stress myself out too much, this meal was probably the simplest of all, and I think my dad’s favorite to date. He literally scraped the pot, and I’ve never seen such behavior from him. My dad, what can I say. King of poker faces and exceedingly smug. Let’s not forget that he doesn’t speak, even when spoken to. How are we related again? Scraping a plate is something he never does because he doesn’t want to show too much emotion. But last night he got emotional.
So we start with this idea of a Japanese hot pot, but again, I want major reduction. Only essential ingredients. Usually a Japanese hot pot is served with a medley of vegetables and meat (think mushrooms), you can almost compare these hot pots with Shabu-Shabu, but hot pots are a little more personal. Each individual gets their own pot, or it can be shared between two people. What I love is that the pot you use to cook your meal in becomes the final dish, and it keeps everything nice and warm. But again, cutting to the base flavor of the Japanese hot pot would be to start with the soup base. What would a hot pot be without a good soup base? Nothing.
You might wonder why there are hardly any ingredients here. Well as I said this dish is only about the essential. These are the two main ingredients. Black winter truffle and Katsuobushi.
Besides the truffle, the other strong flavor element is katsuobushi. Katsuobushi is dried and fermented tuna, and when it’s completely dried it almost looks like a wooden block. I’ve shown the block on the blog before, and you can take this block and slice it through a wooden mandolin of sorts (think of how cheese is sliced). From there you get these paper thin sheets which break into flakes. These flakes are then used to flavor broths. The little packets shown here are convenient. The more you use per cup the stronger the flavor will be. But for this I wanted something extremely mild, so I only used two packets. What’s important to note is how you extract the broth. Absolutely NO boiling, just let these flakes sit in hot water, the longer they sit the more intense your broth will be.
This is the katsuobushi broth, you can see how mild it looks. Flavor is very faint. If it is too strong, it will distract from the truffle flavor. All other classic vegetables that are served (or meat) for classic japanese hotpots are cleared out. No need for the others in this instance. We have a black winter truffle on hand, Rolex of ‘shrooms.
It was time to think for a second. I almost lost this idea, but while looking at this plastic jar with the truffle inside, I knew I didn’t need to break out a separate package of rice. The rice that was used to keep the truffle smell encapsulated when packaged was the answer. This rice was already flavored with some of that black truffle scent and it would be a waste to toss it.
Cooking method is very similar to making risotto.
When the rice is done it will look something like this.
Two other ingredients added right at the end when everything is done cooking. Fresh heavy cream and high quality butter. You want to use decent butter for this because with such minimal ingredients you’ll just be able to taste everything more.
After the cream and butter has been added. To be honest this tastes amazing even before the truffle. Just simple and rich. So delicious.
With all these simple yet high quality ingredients, we have the final touch here. Add thin slices of a fresh black truffle.
Intoxicating smell, no need for fuss, all the base flavors are just a canvas for this expensive fungus. I know that’s what my dad appreciated most, that you could taste the truffle and the truffle only. This hot pot is like a Jil Sander double breasted women’s blazer. Or if this hot pot turned into a woman, Carolyn Bessette.
I got this truffle shaver from SOS Chefs in the East Village. They are a unique gourmet food shop, and they supply to professional chefs. They also carry the most selection of truffle ingredients I’ve seen in a food shop, of course they sell fresh truffles too.