In a well made movie, we often marvel at how the main actor/actress shines in his/her role. And often it's because of the supporting actor/actress role in that particular movie that makes the main character stand out. And occasionally, the main character's role pales in comparison to the the talents of the supporting character. Likewise in cooking.
In Asia, most countries have their own methods and versions of enhancing a dish. It could be dried shrimp, chilies, or the popular fermented soy beans or soya bean paste. Used in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese cooking, the soya bean paste is often used as the supporting ingredient in making a dish shine. In Japan, this paste is called Miso.
Miso comes in a variety of concoctions by fermenting soy beans, barley or rice, and this thick paste is used in most Japanese cooking. There are white, red, brown, black, yellow tubs of this paste found in food stores around here. I love the different intensities of miso and it's rich flavor in soups, and as a spread on white fish before putting it under the broiler. So I was elated when I saw this recipe for miso chicken stew.
The recipe was adapted from Gourmet, and I love how the miso shines through this dish even when it's the last ingredient added. And like all stews, this dish is brighter and tastier the following day. This recipe made a big batch of stew, so I put some away in the freezer for a quick meal for later in the week. Made several changes to the original recipe and cooked it in my electric pressure cooker with a non-stick interior. It also browns the meat as well as pressure cooks it, which makes an easy clean-up for me.16 chicken thighs with bone, but skin removed(about 5 pounds)
2/3 c dried wood ear mushrooms
4-5 c homemade chicken stock
3 (6-inch) stalks burdock root (sometimes called gobo)1 tsp fresh lemon juice
3 tbs canola oil
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
1 lb fresh shitake mushrooms, stems discarded, large caps quartered
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
3 tbs finely chopped peeled ginger
3 tbs finely chopped garlic
1 c mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
1/2 cup light soy sauce
3/4 to 1 c white miso (also called shiro miso)
Accompaniment: cooked jasmine or brown rice
Garnish: chopped scallions
Soak wood ear mushrooms in 4 cups of cold water until softened, about 15 minutes. Drain and rinse well, discarding any hard pieces. Drain well, squeezing out excess water.
Peel burdock root, and, if more than 1-inch-thick, halve lengthwise. Cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces. Transfer burdock root to a bowl, then add lemon juice and 2 cups water.
Turn on electric pressure cooker to brown, add 1 tbs canola oil and brown chicken thighs in 2-3 patches. Remove chicken to a plate.
Add onions and saute onions until softened and beginning to brown. Add shitakes, ginger, and garlic and saute until garlic is golden, 2-3 minutes.
Add mirin chicken stock, celery, and carrots, stirring and scraping up any brown bits, 1 minute. Stir in soy sauce, then add the chicken back into the pot.
Cover pot and pressure cook for 35 mins.
Remove the lid when pressure is off, and stir in 1 cup miso mixed with 1/2 cup warm chicken stock. With the setting on brown, stir gently til miso is well mixed in the sauce. Serve immediately with rice.
Note: I love the addition of burdock root to this dish. It added a unique taste to the dish as well as fiber. This can be cooked on the stove top and braised for 1 hour if not using a pressure cooker. I had chose to add the white miso to this dish as a last ingredient to preserve the wonderful flavors of miso. A dear Japanese friend taught me to never overcook miso so as to preserve it's qualities and nutrients, so I tend to add it last and bring it to just a boil.
Because in this particular dish, Miso was my star ingredient.