ODEN (Japanese Winter Stew)

Pre-broiled tofu can be purchased at any Asian supermarket but it's a cinch to make at home and more cost-effective. The texture changes to a crispy and chewy cloud of bean curd goodness, perfect for gulping up the deep, rich flavors of the vegetable stew. As with most tofu preparations, draining and pressing the bean curd is key: Wrap a 14-oz. standard block of firm or extra firm tofu in a kitchen towel or paper towel. Place a heavy weight on top; we use a small cast iron skillet with a large bag of rice but anything will do, as long as it's heavy enough. After 15 minutes unwrap the tofu and re-wrap in a new, dry towel or paper towel. Weight the tofu down again for 15 minutes. Now you're ready to slice the tofu in half - horizontally - and place the two pieces on an oiled baked sheet. Lightly brush the top sides with vegetable oil and broil - on the high setting - for about 8 minutes. Flip and broil on the reverse for 8-10 minutes. be careful to not burn. The tofu is ready to be used in any recipe calling for the broiled variety.

The rich broth of our Oden is further enhanced by a slow simmering of root veggies.

While the Oden bubbles away, not quite ready to inhale yet, Arabella catches some shut-eye on the kitchen sofa before the dinner frenzy. Sweet dreams no doubt, induced by the sweet and savory scents of the stew.

Oden for dinner at Cafe Drake HRV. Serve with bowls of rice and hot mustard as a condiment.

Sliced scallions and watercress sprigs are the traditional garnishes for Oden. We used parsley leaves and slivered scallions as our green flourish.

If you haven't purchased pre-broiled (or grilled tofu at your local Asian market) you'll need to broil it at home following the instructions in the photo caption above. Once the tofu is broiled, slice into rectangles and set aside.

Pour 4 cups of vegetable broth into a snug, compact saucepan or deep skillet. (Non-vegetarians may wish to use chicken stock.) Add 4 T. tamari (or soy sauce in a pinch), 3 T. mirin, 1 T. sugar and 1/3 cup sake (or dry sherry). Add to the pot: 3-4 peeled carrots, cut into large wedges; 1/2 rutabaga, peeled and cut into thick matchsticks; 1 turnip, peeled and quartered; 1 large potato, peeled and cut into 6 wedges; 14 oz. broiled tofu, cut into smaller pieces (see top caption above) and 3-4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled, left whole and pricked with fork tines.

Bring to a boil and then immediately reduce heat to low. partially cover saucepan or skillet and simmer, gently, for 20-30 minutes or until veggies are tender to your liking. 

To serve, arrange in each individual bowl, a selection of all of the ingredients. Distribute equally so no one gets disappointed! The eggs may be left whole or cut in to halves. Carefully pour some of the stock into each bowl and garnish with sliced scallions. Although atypical, a drizzle of toasted sesame oil OR chili oil is a lovely gesture.


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